If you follow our Facebook page then you're likely already aware of a contest that started many months ago and officially ended on October 6th. The contest was created by a pet health insurance company called Pet Partners. Eligible animal charities entered the contest in hopes of winning a much needed $5,000 prize along with the title, "Animaltarian of the Year".
Five grand is a minuscule incentive for a large multi-million dollar organization to even bother participating in a competition, but naturally, money hungry Big Cat Rescue entered, likely hoping to easily snatch the cash prize as well as the undeserved title. We expected nothing less from them.
In order for an organization to win Pet Partners' contest, they needed to work hard on social media in order to garner the most votes by the end of two phases. Phase I ended back in September and the top 5 organizations with the most votes at the end of the phase were allowed to move onto phase II.
The finalists that moved onto phase II were Southeast German Shepherd's Phoenix Dog Program, Pilot N Paws, Coastal German Shepherd Rescue of Southern California, Team Leo Animal Rescue, and none other than the notorious roadside zoo otherwise known as Big Cat Rescue (shocker).
The first round of voting ended with the Phoenix Dog Program fetching the most votes with a whopping 23,060 votes. Big Cat Rescue was trailing just behind with 21,398 votes. We wonder how an organization with over 2 million Facebook followers and tens of thousands of followers on other social media platforms got outvoted by an organization with about 500,000 followers on Facebook. Could the rumors about Big Cat Rescue inflating their Facebook page with fake likes be true?
The second round of voting ended on October 6th at 10:00pm with Big Cat Rescue surprisingly gaining the most amount of votes in the last few remaining hours of the competition, overtaking the Southeast German Shepherd Rescue's Phoenix Dog Program which was leading in nearly 10,000 votes for the majority of second phase.
There is a cloud of suspicion surrounding Big Cat Rescue's sudden surge in votes. Many people, including Southeast German Shepherd Rescue, are questioning whether or not Big Cat Rescue somehow won through the use of underhanded tactics that are against the competition's rules.
Supporters of the dog rescue quickly wrote to Pet Partners regarding Big Cat Rescue's sudden spike in votes and left numerous comments (that have since been deleted) on their Facebook page calling for an investigation. Others, including ourselves and people who follow our Facebook page, left comments with screenshots attached showing Big Cat Rescue's supporters breaking the competition's rules and encouraging others to break them as well.
One of the rules states that a person can only vote once per day but apparently Big Cat Rescue's supporters thought that meant they could vote multiple times using multiple mobile devices.
The competition really shows how deeply devoted some of Big Cat Rescue's supporters are and how combative they can be. The competitiveness of their supporters was likely brought out due to Big Cat Rescue basically turning the charitable contest into a petty squabble between dogs and cats. Whether that was accidental or on purpose is up for you to decide.
After much protest, Pet Partners decided to investigate the complaints before officially announcing a winner which we thought was great move on their part, but the good news didn't last long. Pet Partners released a statement addressing some of the accusations people made against Big Cat Rescue. We will go through each point Pet Partners made and provide necessary information they felt the need to leave out.
The first point Pet Partners made is a bit misleading. Below is what they had to say (emphasis added).
First off, Southeast German Shepherd Rescue and Big Cat Rescue were not "neck and neck" throughout phase II. As we already pointed out, the German Shepherd rescue group was leading by a large sum of votes for the whole phase.
As a matter of fact, about two days before the contest ended, Big Cat Rescue made a Facebook post stating, "The dogs are more than 9,500 votes ahead of the cats."
The next complaint Pet Partners bring up pertains to Big Cat Rescue's supporters cheating by voting multiple times a day and instructing others to do so as well.
While we agree that Big Cat Rescue isn't responsible for their fans going out of their way to break the rules despite their fans plainly stating their intentions on Big Cat Rescue's Facebook page (whatever right?), we can't help but to question why Pet Partners didn't ask the participating organizations to make a post telling their followers about the rule to only vote once. While many people knew about that rule many others did not. Perhaps Pet Partners will make changes in the voting process for the next contest, if there is one.
Pet Partners then brings up some of the accusations people made against Big Cat Rescue and how they are not deserving of the awards due to the many untold atrocities they have committed over the years. We knew things would go downhill from here when Pet Partners said they had spoken to Big Cat Rescue about the allegations.
We can only assume that they were told that the claims made against them are lies coming from "animal abusers" or "exploiters" despite the claims being backed by evidence.
Below is the next complaint Per Partners tries to address.
It's immaterial whether Pet Partners likes the idea, the point is, live feeding is not only unnecessary, but it goes against the very definition of what it means to be an Animaltarian.
According to Pet Partners, an Animaltarian is a person who seeks to support animal welfare.
Big Cat Rescue is demonstrating the exact opposite of animal welfare by feeding live rabbits to their bobcats in their rehabilitation program. We should also mention that Big Cat Rescue is a firm supporter of animal rights.
It's very important to make a distinction between animal rights and animal welfare. Animal rights is a radical ideology that wants to abolish zoos and the whole notion of owning pets. Animal welfare strives to improve the lives of animals in human care.
We would like to know what research Pet Partners conducted as they seem to have just repeated a typical response often parroted by Big Cat Rescue.
An animal welfare advocate and vocal opponent of Big Cat Rescue's live feeding practices took it upon herself to question other wildlife experts about the practice of feeding live rabbits to bobcats. She discovered that many wildlife rehabilitators don't buy into Big Cat Rescue's brand of nonsense.
(CLICK HERE - for the responses she received)
The Clinic Director for the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), Amber McNamara, said, "We don’t use any live prey for feeding bobcats. When we feed them, the staff is diligent about making a disconnect between humans and food: hiding the food, placing in different spots in the cages, trying to introduce novel items, and making the bobcats “work” for the food by finding it, not by killing it. I feel very strongly that the vast majority of our patients are very instinctual, and don’t need the live prey stimulus to tap into their wildness or train them to be hunters. Just as we don’t need to teach baby birds to fly or otters to swim – they are incredibly instinctual."
Pet Partners then goes on to mentions that they have spoken with Florida Fish and Wildlife.
We don't know which specific inspection report they are referring to so we can only guess that it was the inspection conducted by the FWC back in 2014.
That report listed 70+ discrepancies found at Big Cat Rescue ranging from filthy water bowls to rusty cages that if left further neglected can result in a cat escaping. In our opinion, that report shows the total disregard Big Cat Rescue has about improving their facility to provide the best possible life their cats can have.
After Kara Hooker, Florida Fish and Wildlife Captain and alleged Big Cat Rescue sympathizer, instigated a conference call on behalf of Howard and Carole Baskin, many of the violations were changed to "suggestions." After many complaints there was an FWC "investigation" where Captain Hooker denied having any recollection of that conference call.
Pet Partners must have forgotten to address our complaint.
We had questioned why Pet Partners would allow a roadside zoo that rakes in millions of dollars a year to compete in a competition against smaller organizations in need of funds to continue their work of caring for needy canines.
To put things into perspective, if you subtract Big Cat Rescue's total expenses from their total revenue in 2014 they are left with over $1-million. Their surplus alone is way more than each of the organizations make in a year. Should multi-million dollar facilities with millions in surplus funds in the bank even be allowed to enter competitions meant to help those who are truly in need of funds?
The picture below shows the revenue each of the competing organizations (couldn't find Team Leo's 990 form) made back in 2014. The revenue for the Phoenix Dog Program only accounts for the program and not the Southeast German Shepherd Rescue which made a little over $200,000 back in 2014.
After Pet Partners "investigated" they made an announcement that Big Cat Rescue won the competition and the title of Animaltarian of The Year. Southeast German Shepherd Rescue was devastated by the news of Big Cat Rescue winning and we have got to give them kudos for calling them out for what they really are, a roadside zoo, licensed to exhibit their animals for money.
There is some good news to this story. Southeast German Shepherd Rescue exceeded their goal of raising $5,000. I would like to thank our followers who helped pitch in. At least there is one more organization that sees Big Cat Rescue for what they are, and hopefully many others will start to as well.
HERE is a petition with over 1,000 signatures you can sign to tell Pet Partners about the awful decision they made.