Veterinarian guilty of illegally declawing lions at zoo

In February, PETA won a preliminary injunction stopping Wildlife in Need from declawing big cats and from separating them prematurely from their mothers

A lawsuit by PETA against Rick L. Pelphrey, DVM, has been settled after the veterinarian admitted to declawing lions and tigers illegally without pain medication at Wildlife in Need zoo in Charlestown, Ind.

PETA charges that Dr. Pelphrey declawed around 12 big cats over the past three years even though the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) condemned declawing big and exotic cats eight years ago.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report found two of the cats had severe complications from the amputations, leaving them bleeding, hesitant to walk, and in apparent pain. Both cubs subsequently died.

This federal court order creates a precedent that declawing endangered or threatened exotic cats without medical necessity violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As part of the settlement, Dr. Pelphrey may no longer declaw or give any kind of veterinary care to endangered or threatened species of big or exotic cats.

PETA’s lawsuit against the owners and operators of Wildlife in Need for alleged violations of the ESA is ongoing.


Post a Comment

12 thoughts on “Veterinarian guilty of illegally declawing lions at zoo

  1. This is either reported wrong or it is crazy as can be. First the African Lion is not an endangered species. 2nd you cannot perform surgery on a wild cat without anesthesia.3rdly while many believe that declawing should not be done. There should not be laws against it, any more than laws against dehorning, or castrations, or any other elective surgery. 4thly, There can be a certain amount of post op bleeding with any surgery, and declaws by their very nature would be subject to some post op bleeding.

    I can not attest to the ability of the surgeon, but no animal should or would die from a declaw unless negligence of some type occurred.

    1. First off, you sound like an insensitive idiot and second you sound like someone who does not care much for animals. In either case you need to be declawed.

    2. I read the article and it did not say that the declaw surgery was done without anesthesia, so I’m not sure why you brought that up as your second point against this article. Also, whether the African Lion is or isn’t an endangered species has no bearing on the point of this article, so I’m not sure why you brought that up as your number one argument. Did we even read the same article?? Thirdly, if the bandages are applied too tightly after the declaw surgery, in an attempt to lessen post op bleeding, it can indeed cause necrosis of the area, and in turn reperfusion injury after the bandages are removed, not to mention consequent organ damage. I have witnessed this actually happen in a domestic cat.
      The author of the article is not a veterinarian so they obviously do not know the actual cause of death of the two cats that died after the surgery, but you can not just presume that the author is lying just because you personally do not agree with PETA’s cause.

  2. The African Lion has been protected under the “Endangered Species Act” since 2016 I believe.

    The article doesn’t say anything about lack of anesthesia, but makes the point that pain meds were not used. Perhaps you have confused these two.

  3. It appears the lions in question were very young cubs removed from their mother just days, or possibly even hours, after birth and if so, could have been swaddled/held down and the procedure performed without anesthesia. Early removal from the mother, added to the enormous amount of pain of the declawing and overall stress, could very well have lead to their death. It’s a sad situation regardless.

  4. If any of the above “critics” read the actual USDA report (link within article) – or viewed the actual lawsuit (link also within article) – your comments are not applicable to the actual facts. Timothy Stark is the owner of these animals/this “zoo”. All animals at the facility are apparently being horribly housed under acutely stressful situations. He even tried to hide animals from inspectors!! Declawing of lion cubs is only a tip of the cruel treatment he has caused various wildlife to undergo. He apparently has no training or experience nor seems to care about seeking expert opinions on how to care for these animals – and, as a result faces a number of serious allegations by the USDA. You are correct by stating the article doesn’t show the entire story – but the entire story would involve showing the cruelty and suffering that Mr Stark (and business partners?) are apparently imposing on innocent and helpless animals.

  5. Someone should cut out his toenails and fingernails without anesthesia or pain meds, and he should never be allowed to practice veterinary medicine again on any living thing.

  6. This report, which I read in its entirety, is appalling. These sorts of “zoos” should be shut down and the owners jailed for what they do to these animals. This man illegally hid juvenile animals, falsified records, refused inspection, and effectively tortured multiple species. The recently declawed lions were all BABIES. I bet he just restrained them – no anesthetic, as the risk of reaction/death under anesthesia was too high. The owner reported it “was just easier” to have them declawed. He had over 20 large cats on his property of various ages, all declawed. His feeding program was balls of frozen meat. His “housing” for these animals was horrifying. His enrichment program for primates was non-existent. This was truly a concentration camp for animals.
    I hope – and believe – that there is a special place in Hell for this type of person.

  7. Declawing is actually amputation up to the first joint so it’s a lot more serious than trimming nails. Big cats in particular have life long pain from the procedure. It cause gait abnormalities due to foot pain which cause arthritis. It’s a mess.

    Doing this to young cubs could cause shock and death if infection doesn’t do them in. It’s a sure sign of a rampant breeding program for profits, probably through selling animals for pets, medicines, or canned hunts. The cubs are used for tourist photo ops.