Galt CA-During the past 72 hours the Performing Animal Welfare Society has once again been in the news. Their ARK2000 sanctuary is located in San Andreas California and is perilously close to the 64,728 acre Butte Wildfire. This out of control wildfire is now over 100 sq. miles in size with little sign of slowing down. What makes this fire more dangerous than normal is that it has no single direction. In fact one refugee camp has had to be moved twice to avoid a shift in the flames direction.
ARK2000 houses 8 elephants, and numerous other animals including Big Cats and Bears. They are regulated by the United States Dept. of Agriculture as well as California Fish and Game and their Accrediting body, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS).
The USDA AND the GFAS require the each facility to have a Disaster Preparedness/ Emergency Evacuation plan in place yet yesterday, when told to evacuate, a director at PAWS facility told Sacramento’s ABC10 there was no way to prepare for a “monster fire” like the Butte fire. They have sprinklers going on the cages and enclosures, but they cannot evacuate because of the size and needs of their animals. The fact that they have taken the immense responsibility to care for these animals, and have spent millions in donor funds, yet have NO equipment to evacuate, especially in a State KNOWN for wildfires is not only unbelievable but is incompetent at best and, in our opinion, criminal at worst.
PAWS policies include their version of Protected Contact where they believe in allowing their animals to make their own choices including whether or not they want to participate in “training” sessions. This system has continually caused failed at their facility as they have been unable to perform regular foot care, medicate animals, and even reintroduce three companion elephants back together after separating them for transport. Ironically PAWS has been a key player in lobbying and distributing misinformation about California’s SB716, a bill sitting on Gov. Brown’s desk that would ban the very tool that, in the hands of competent trainers, would have allowed them to walk the elephants into a transport trailer and possibly save their lives.
Since the news broke that the fire was within 10 miles of ARK2000 there has been an overwhelming outpouring of offers to bring trucks, equipment, and manpower to help evacuate ALL of the animals from the very people PAWS attacks. USZA members have joined with Zoos, Circuses and other Private owners who have offered to put aside their philosophical differences and do what is right for the animals. Unfortunately, these offers have fallen on deaf ears. At one point PAWS acknowledged the generous offers of help on their Facebook page and one of their supporters remarked that they would bring marshmallows and roast them over the dead bodies of the animals before letting the abusers help.
Equally troubling to USZA members is the absence of any inspectors from the USDA. By law they have the authority, both legal AND moral, to step in and confiscate the animals to ensure their safety yet they remain conspicuously absent. What is the GFAS doing to help? How can they accredit an animal facility that has no way to implement an Evacuation Plan? This is yet another Red Flag that not all is well in the Sanctuary world and that maybe, just maybe, the USDA should be inspecting GFAS Accredited facilities more often.
With the fire inching closer, the trapped animals at ARK2000 are undoubtedly suffering not only psychological trauma and stress from the smoke and ash falling all around them but physically from the extremely poor air quality, all of which may cause lasting health problems if they do survive. In the absence of any request for help all we can do is ask you to join with us in hoping and praying for the safety of the animals that have been abandoned by all but a few of their caretakers, forced to fend for themselves in this negligent situation.
United States Zoological Association
Contact: Doug Terranova 214-952-4520