OROVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a new complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against an Oroville wildlife foundation after a volunteer was attacked by a leopard in captivity.
The owner and executive director of the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation, Roberta Kirshner, claimed they have a 30-year track record of good safety and education at their sanctuary, which caters to animals with special needs.
But Debbie Metzler, PETA’s associate director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, said it’s actually quite the opposite. She said this incident is another example of a longstanding history of malpractice at Kirshner’s establishment.
“This is not a facility equipped to take care of these animals,” Metzler told FOX40.
While she’s concerned, Metzler said she is not surprised over what happened last Saturday. A veteran staff volunteer working in an enclosure with two critically endangered Amur leopards was attacked by one of the animals before it managed to escape its enclosure at the Kirshner Wildlife Foundation.
“She’s lucky to be alive,” Metzler said. “She suffered five puncture wounds to her neck and was in the hospital for two days.”
The leopard was tranquilized and moved to a secure location.
Metzler said the situation could have been much worse and that’s why they filed complaint Wednesday — just one out of several others filed in the past.
“Kirshner has been cited by the USDA for pretty egregious animal welfare violations, including letting the public come into contact with dangerous wild animals, and it was actually fined over $5,000,” Metzler said.
She claimed the foundation has also been cited for bad veterinary practices and is also guilty of cub petting, as seen in the controversial Netflix docuseries “Tiger King.”
In a recent statement, Kirshner said in part, “The experience and expertise of myself, our volunteers, and our local veterinary partners allows us to give these animals a good, quality life they could not have anywhere else.”
“We love our volunteers, our partners, and the community that has embraced and supported us for the last three decades, and we look forward to many more years of touching lives, both human and animal, in a positive way,” her statement continued.
“Our hope is that Kirshner will do the right thing and those animals shouldn’t be there,” Metzler said. “And the USDA needs to hold Kirshner accountable for these very egregious violations.”
FOX40 has also reached out to the USDA for comment on the complaint filed but has not heard back yet.