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Yogie & Friends Appealing to Supporters to Help Save Exotic Cat Sanctuary

yogie cat
Angela Thomas/KEEL

Directors at Yogie and Friends Exotic Cat Sanctuary in Frierson are appealing to friends to help save the facility from closure.

Here’s the email we got from Director Jenny Senier:

Dear Yogie Fans and Friends,

I wanted to do a personal email to you all to let you know exactly what is happening at the sanctuary at this time. I also ask that cooler heads prevail and that you not call the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) regarding our situation and status. We are working all these issues.

Yogie and Friends was incorporated in May 2000 and became a 501(c)(3) public charity. We received our first USDA Class C exhibitor license on 13 July 2001. The USDA was our only governing authority.

15 August 2006 the laws regarding big cat ownership changed in Louisiana. This new law gave the LDWF the authority to “promulgate” rules and regulations regarding big cats in the state. The only entities exempted from the new law are sanctuaries (they will only recognize AZA accredited sanctuaries or Federal ones), Universities with a mascot, and a couple of others I cannot think of at this moment. We are not recognized as a sanctuary. We are looked at the same as a private pet owner.

In 2009 we applied to be a non-AZA zoo. Our first inspection had expected discrepancies and we have been trying to work on these. The den houses we originally thought we could use did not work, so we were back at square one there. The other items we thought we had successfully met, but apparently have not. We had another visit on 29 April 2014 and received an even more extensive list of requirements. Many are administrative, but some are not. We truly thought we had met or exceeded the standards in many areas. At that point the letter stated we had 60 days to correct ALL deficiencies or our animals would be seized and LDWF would assist us in finding someplace to send them.

14 July 2014 LDWF inspectors returned and they said we still have not met the requirements, said they will not give us an extension and will not permit us as a non-AZA zoo. As a result I was told that we were now in violation of possessing big cats without a permit and was cited by one of the accompanying enforcement agents. The nine big cats are seized on paper. This means they are now evidence in a lawsuit and cannot be moved, sold, or anything else. Wildlife agents also said they have located a sanctuary in Colorado to take immediate possession of the animals. That cannot happen. I have to go to court on 3 September.

I am truly ill by all this. We really thought we were making progress. We are trying to raise money for both the legal and doing even above and beyond what we thought was right. We ask you please share this link with as many as you can. Again, please do not attack any of the government departments involved here. It can only hurt us.

Many of you have been to Yogie and Friends and know how wonderfully cared for our animals are. Please remember your visits and thank you for caring.

Here is our current link for fundraising. We need much more than this and some materials if you know fence companies that would donate materials.

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