Liger exhibit draws protest at fair
ELKHORN—One side says it's education and entertainment.
The other side says it's cruelty.
A handful of people showed up outside the Walworth County Fairgrounds on Saturday to protest Woody's Menagerie, an animal show taking place at the fair.
The menagerie is actually a three-part show consisting of a liger exhibit, animal racing and an educational animal show.
A liger is a cross between a lion and tiger. In nature, such animals are extremely rare.
The animal races resemble similar races at other fairs, except that Woody's Menagerie features goat, pig and dachshund racing. Woody's also presents an educational stage show with a variety of animals.
Andy Carlson, a longtime volunteer at the Valley of the Kings Sanctuary and Retreat, organized the protest when he heard Woody's was coming to the fair. The Valley of the Kings is a big-cat rescue operation near Sharon.
Carlson said Woody's has a history of animal abuse and has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Carlson and his group originally planned to enter the fairgrounds, but they were told they couldn't bring in their signs. They settled for handing out information outside the gate.
"This is about public education," said Carlson, who also submitted an online protest petition to the Walworth County Board. "This is exploitation of these animals. We, as a society, have sent a very strong message to the circus industry: 'Enough. We do not want you to earn money off the misery and pain of animals.'"
Carlson said Woody's Menagerie uses the same model as the circus, and he is concerned about the quality of care the animals receive.
The USDA has cited Karen and Gregg Woody, the owners, for a variety of violations dating back to 2010.
In response, Gregg Woody encouraged visitors to look at the condition of the animals in his care.
As for the protesters, Woody said he's been in the business for more than three decades. People are going to have their opinions, he said, and "that's fine."
He also wanted everything to "work out on the legal end of things" before commenting on the USDA's complaints.
He said he hoped people would look at the whole story.
"Let's just put it this way," Woody said. "I've been in this business for 35 years, and I didn't have any problems until I got a new (USDA) inspector."
In a complaint dated July 17, 2015, a USDA inspector cited several areas of concern about the operation. Some had to do with record keeping, fencing and cleanliness. But the complaint also lists 13 cases of "failing to provide adequate veterinary care to animals."
Included in the list are:
-- Housing a "visibly ailing Rocky Mountain goat in a transport trailer for nine days before getting veterinary care. The goat died from pneumonia resulting from a pasturella infection."
-- Failing to obtain veterinary care for a juvenile male lion with a treatable condition. "Instead, the respondents killed Scotty by shooting him to death, and thereafter, according to Gregg Woody, sold his carcass to a local weightlifter," the complaint said.
-- Failing to get care for a juvenile liger that died of unknown causes and failing to get an autopsy performed.
Other violations included failure to provide a liger and a bear "sufficient space to make normal postural adjustments."