The organization also does not own any land and is currently in the process of relocating to an equestrian center in Hillsboro, Oregon, creating an unstable situation for their animals. From June through September, A Walk on the Wildlife visits fairs and festivals throughout the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California, where they display big cats in chain-link cages and sell $30 photos with tiny cubs.
A Walk on the Wildlife estimates that over 2 million people visit their exhibit each year, and have no qualms about renting out animals for private parties or displaying them at large festivals featuring fireworks and blaring rock music. During the fair season, A Walk on the Wildlife has a seemingly constant supply of baby big cats, to the point that their staff are expected to work “solely with big cats between the ages of six and 16 weeks.” These cubs are used as photo props in A Walk on the WildSide’s jungle-themed photo booth, which charges fair goers $30 to pet and take a photo with a baby tiger, lion, cougar, bobcat, serial, or lynx.
In an industry newsletter, A Walk on the Wildlife writes that their exhibit cubs “are usually given anywhere from 10-12 hours of hands-on, daily interaction by our handlers.” That’s virtually constant handling of a baby that needs to rest, roam, and play to develop properly. The cub is so visibly distressed that the news station’s description for the footage admits that baby tiger wasn’t happy at all about being held.
” In 2015, A Walk on the Wildlife encouraged people to visit their farm to pet a tiger cub that was 15 weeks old, past the 12-week age limit established by federal USDA guidelines. Photos of A Walk on the WildSide’s fair exhibit cubs show visible wounds on the animals noses. Photos of A Walk on the WildSide’s fair exhibit cubs show visible wounds on the animals noses. A very tiny lynx kitten being exploited by A Walk on the Wildlife at a fair. Occasionally, baby bobcats, serials, and cougars are also used as photo props. Occasionally, baby bobcats, serials, and cougars are also used as photo props. Occasionally, baby bobcats, serials, and cougars are also used as photo props. This extremely stressed tiger cub was filmed at a fair by a local news outlet.
Once the cubs are too large to use for photo-ops, A Walk on the Wildlife sometimes sells them to other private owners and backyard zoos. In an industry newsletter, an employee of A Walk on the Wildlife admits: We often agree to take in cubs, feed, house, love, and raise them temporarily, so that they can properly and safely be placed with another accredited facility to live out their lives.
” This directly contradicts the feel-good claims made on their website that A Walk on the Wildlife provides a home for life for their animals, and perpetuates the cruel cycle of “breed, exploit, and dump” that true sanctuaries are trying to end. But instead of teaching patrons about the role that their animals play in the wild, explaining that wild animals make poor pets, or that the private trade in big cats is harmful, they’ve stated that their primary goal is to educate the public about responsible animal ownership.
” Their exhibit is designed to “teach” people that their big cats don’t belong in the wild, and that the breeding, exploitation, and trade of endangered animals by private owners is a form of “conservation,” even though virtually all reputable conservation groups warn that it’s not. At their exhibit, A Walk on the Wildlife displays a large “educational” poster that says So You Think They Belong in the Wild … ” The poster was written by a group which lobbies for the private ownership and trade of big cats, and makes the inaccurate claims that “the wild no longer exists, that accredited zoos “aren’t doing enough” to save species, and that the only way to save tigers from extinction is with the “help” of private owners, breeders, and exhibitors.
When not being exhibited at fairs, A Walk on the Wild Sides’ 174+ exotic animals live at a farm in Candy, Oregon that is being leased from a local concrete company. The big cats appear to be housed in rows of tiny, gravel-floored chain link dog runs with no natural vegetation and poor drainage.
According to USDA inspection records, one of the staff, as of December 2009, only had 3 months of on the job experience working with big cats, and liked to let the cats “comb his hair.” In 2014, an inspector found that an enclosure holding a pig, a red fox and two young tigers contained excessive water after an overnight rainstorm, leaving the animals without adequate dry space (she noted that plans were in place to remedy the problem later that day). In September 2012, A Walk on the Wildlife was written up for failing to maintain adequate separation between animals and the public after a spectator at an expo approached a transport cage holding an adult tiger and touched the animal’s face.
Multiple pictures taken behind-the-scenes at the “sanctuary” and posted online show staff members holding metal pipes, wooden canes, and broom handles while “walking” an adolescent tiger on multiple leashes and chains. One of the most recent animal welfare complaints against A Walk on the Wildlife comes from a nearby donkey rescue, which in January 2016 received multiple concerned calls about over 25 donkeys (including pregnant females and foals) which were being kept by Steve Higgs out in the winter elements with no shelter and little food and water.
Facebook's postings by the “sanctuary” openly support the use of elephants and big cats in circus acts, accuse all responsible sanctuaries and animal welfare groups of being “PETA” and “killing animals, ” and mock those who disagree with them, stating that we welcome positive comments and opinions, not those from uneducated people! Negative comments left on A Walk on the WildSide’s Facebook page are removed and the original poster blocked, while negative reviews are “responded to” by staff taking a screenshot of the review and posting it on the page with insults.
The poster’s suggestion that A Walk on the Wildlife model their responsible behavior by not exploiting animals is dismissed as an uneducated opinion. This person posted a link to a news article about A Walk on the WildSide’s Candy location being shut down due to multiple code violations and urged the Portland Rose Festival to reconsider hosting their exhibit.
A Walk on the Wildlife rejected the contents of the article as another “opinion” and mocked the poster, calling her an uneducated hateful person. There have been multiple reports of A Walk on the Wildlife staff responding to fair goers’ honest questions and concerns with rude and threatening language that occasionally turns into physical violence.
When a group of animal welfare activists asked Cheryl Jones and Steve Higgs some honest questions about the living conditions of their animals at a 2009 fair, the only answer they could give was attempting to shout us down and threats of calling 911. Cheryl Jones then struck me and could only respond to us by calling us “PETA lovers” and claiming they were “educating children about animals.
But in a newsletter published by the deceptively-named Feline Conservation Federation; a group which advocates for the “right” of private individuals to breed, own, and use exotic cats for entertainment; an employee of Walk on the Wildlife states that their facility’s goal is to …advocate for private ownership and continue our mission of healthy captive breeding. A Walk on the Wildlife is very connected with private breeders and roadside zoos, including the notorious Joe Schreibvogel, and have bragged about their “breeding program” with unspecified overseas facilities.
FYI I picked up Kira , at the age of 4 weeks . To sum it up, this “sanctuary” openly advocates for the private breeding and exploitation of exotic animals, houses them in substandard conditions, and bullies anyone who questions their practices or their industry.
Events that host them are supporting the private ownership and trade of endangered big cats, and NOT a responsible rescue. Customers, like these Jackson County fair goers, can pay $30 to pose for photos holding tiger cub Sarah.
Two months ago, Jones and her partner, Steve Higgs, moved much of their family business to an old horse farm outside Hillsboro. A metal security gate flanked by two stone lions blocks visitors from the farmhouse where Jones and Higgs have set up shop.
Jones and Higgs run one of Oregon’s odder nonprofits: A Walk on the Wildlife, a charity whose purpose, according to tax forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service, is “educational.” Its mission: to house exotic animals and transport them in a fifth-wheeler up and down the West Coast to county fairs and birthday parties. In other words, it sits at the edge of regional planning agency Metro’s urban growth boundary.
Their farm, a 30-minute drive from downtown Portland, holds nearly twice as many lions and tigers as the Oregon Zoo. Jones and Higgs declined to allow WW to see the animals, saying the publicity could embolden regulators trying to shut them down.
SORE SPOT: Sarah, a 3-month-old Bengal tiger, rubbed her face raw before the Jackson County Fair this month. Sarah, a 3-month-old Bengal tiger cub, has spent most of her short life on the road: the Stockton County Fair in California, the Jackson County Fair in Southern Oregon, and Portland’s own Rose Festival.
Jones and Higgs also take cubs to birthday parties and other private events, charging $200 to add a tiger to elaborate photo ops with party goers dressed as Aladdin and Jasmine. Mindy Heisted’s son Jay is terminally ill with a rare genetic condition.
Heisted, who lives in Longview, Wash., called Higgs recently and asked if he would bring one of his big cats to Jay’s 11th birthday party on July 1. ANIMAL LOVER: Cheryl Jones has been in love with wild animals since she saved a seagull with a hook its beak at age 12.
Cheryl Jones rescued her first animal when she was 12 years old and living on a Portland houseboat with her family, which had moved there from Pasadena, Calif. Jones and Higgs look as if they could be twins: straw blond-haired, tanned and clad in matching black polo shirts with a lion and tiger embroidered on the breast pocket.
He had studied to become a physician’s assistant but dropped out of school to take care of his kids when his first marriage fell apart. The U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses about 2,600 animal exhibitors nationally, including roadside zoos, circuses and private rescue organizations.
In 2011, Oregon lawmakers stopped issuing permits to people who wanted to own exotic animals as pets, after a number of high-profile escapes and mailings nationwide. Jennifer McCall Rice, a Clackamas County medical assistant, volunteered at A Walk on the Wildlife when she was a teenager in the early 2000s.
According to the nonprofit’s tax returns, no one takes a salary or stipend from the organization’s revenues, including Jones and Higgs. HAVE TIGER, WILL TRAVEL: A Walk on the Wildlife advertises its many entertainment offerings on the side of a trailer it uses to haul an inflatable slide and other equipment.
Drastic helped author a 2012 petition to the USDA asking for tighter restrictions on who may own exotic animals. She says A Walk on the Wildlife was mentioned twice in that petition for allowing thousands of strangers to hold, bottle-feed and pose for photos with baby tigers.
The sheriff’s office and Candy police say they have responded to 83 calls regarding the property during the past nine years. “It is an unusually high number of calls for a single property,” says Deputy Brian Jensen.
SQUASHED: A Walk on the WildSide’s tigers played with fruit from the pumpkin patch that Steve Higgs and Cheryl Jones opened each October in Candy. In fact, records show Jones and Higgs have actually been cited only a handful of times by the USDA, for insufficient fencing, dirty cages and improper paperwork.
By 2012, Jones and Higgs had accumulated several lions and tigers, letting the public come and view the animals in their cages for $5 per person. “There was a lion, I think, or a cougar, a bunch of different rodent-type things, birds, chickens, skunks, different types of wild animals.
In 2014, Andrea Hall and Kim Priest, code enforcement coordinators for Clackamas County, inspected the property. A barn had been converted into a reptile house, but the electrical work for lamps that kept the cold-blooded animals alive was installed without a permit, had not been inspected and left wires exposed.
Clackamas County officials captured shots of a tiger pacing up and down its cage during a 2014 site visit to A Walk on the WildSide’s Candy property. For more than a year, Clackamas County sent letters to Jones and Higgs about the zoning violations, which were upheld.
By November 2014, the couple decided to shut down their public zoo and started traveling more often to county fairs, typically bringing tiger cubs and cougars. LEASE ON LIFE: Clacks tycoon Terry Emmett has become a landlord for A Walk on the Wildlife.
In early June, Tom Harry, a code enforcer for Washington County, got the first call about lions roaring nightly. Jones and Higgs’ attorney, Georgie Buckler, doesn’t dispute that the couple is keeping exotic animals in Hillsboro.
But he argued to Washington County in a June 28 letter that the nonprofit may keep big cats on the property because A Walk on the Wildlife meets the legal definition of a farm. To be considered a farm under Oregon law, A Walk on the Wildlife must produce an agricultural product.
“I am dubious that exotic cat dung would do much to deter wolves or coyotes,” he wrote in an email. Washington County officials don’t have a ready answer for Jones and Higgs’ argument.
She says the county’s lawyer “would have to do some legal research to determine whether manure from an exotic animal is a farm use.” In 2013, Jones told Clackamas County officials that A Walk on the Wildlife owned sheep, goats, miniature cows, alpacas, pigs, horses, donkeys, rabbits, caves (a large rodent), birds, infamous, lemurs, monkeys, bobcats, serials, Caracas, a lynx, a fox, tigers, lions, a leopard, and hundreds of reptiles.
Jones also says she is successfully breeding smaller cats like serials and Canada lynx, and other animals like caves and wallabies. FAT CAT: A Walk on the Wildlife provided photographs of its animals, like Leo the lion.
For almost two weeks, Higgs told WW that a reporter would be welcome to tour the farm, to see how carefully it’s being run. When WW traveled to Jones and Higgs’ property this week to ask follow-up questions, a reporter was not allowed to view the animals.
Jones says that’s because they’re gearing up for a battle with Washington County and don’t want to give their opponents any ammunition. Jones and Higgs laugh at the idea that neighbors should be alarmed at the prospect of their tigers escaping.
A Walk on the WildSide’s next exhibit starts July 26 at the Hood River County Fair. Next month, it’ll be a featured attraction at the Clark County Fair in Ridgefield, Wash.