ATCHISON, Kan. -- Nearly one dozen dangerous wild animals were removed from an Atchison, Kan., property after authorities discovered that the animals had been abandoned in their enclosures without access to food or clean water.
The Atchison County Sheriff’s Office seized the animals, which included a tiger, two cougars, three bobcats, two lynx, a serval and two skunks. The Humane Society of the United States, Big Cat Rescue, In-Sync Exotics, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association and the Kansas City Zoo removed the animals from the property and transported them to sanctuaries around the country.
The animals were living in enclosures that were inadequate in size and security. The enclosures were also full of mud and feces, and did not have appropriate enrichment for the animals, the Humane Society said.
The owner of the animals, Matthew Baker, has been cited for 10 violations, including cruelty to animals and violations of the Dangerous Regulated Animals Act.
Baker was taken into custody at the site of the animal rescue on unrelated charges. The sheriff's office said he has cooperated with authorities and released all the animals from that site to the rescue organizations.
Kansas law currently prohibits the keeping of dangerous regulated animals, including big cats, as pets. However, several provisions render the law virtually ineffective. Specifically, the law allows people who have a U.S. Department of Agriculture license to maintain an inventory of dangerous animals.
“This case exemplifies the inherent problems with the existing law and the need for it to be strengthened. Most private individuals cannot provide humane and safe care for captive wild animals, which leaves law enforcement, taxpayers and sanctuaries left to shoulder the financial burden. We are thankful for the assistance and expertise of the organizations that helped rescue these animals," Atchison County Undersheriff Joe Butner said
“It is sad to see these large, wild cats abandoned in flimsy cages that they could have easily escaped from. As we see in this case, when people own dangerous wild animals it creates an unsafe situation for the community and exposes animals to inhumane conditions. Kansas needs stronger laws on the books to ensure that dangerous wild animals with complex needs are kept only at accredited zoos and sanctuaries. We are grateful for the actions of the sheriff’s office and the other organizations involved in this case," said Midge Grinstead, Kansas state director for The Humane Society.
After discovering that the animals had been abandoned, the sheriff’s office worked with the Kansas City Zoo and The HSUS to provide food for the animals on an emergency basis. Veterinarians with the zoo and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association were also on hand during the animal seizure.
The animals were taken to facilities in Texas, Florida and Linwood, Kan.