Opponents of roadside zoo TV show picket South Portland production company

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SOUTH PORTLAND — More than 20 demonstrators gathered quietly at Legion Square on Saturday, Aug. 29, to protest alleged cruelties behind the Animal Planet show “Yankee Jungle.”

Produced by Lone Wolf Media of 10 Cottage Road, and filmed at DEW Haven, a nonprofit exotic animal sanctuary and roadside zoo owned by Julie and Bob Miner in Mount Vernon, “Yankee Jungle” is a reality TV show about the daily workings of the zoo. The show debuted last November, and the second season is slated to air this fall.

In a second-season teaser, Julie Miner tells the camera that they take in animals “that don’t have homes or from zoos that are being shut down.”

“These animals are like our family,” Bob Miner says. “Sometimes I wonder if we rescued them, or if they rescued us.”

He started the sanctuary for just farm animals in 1980, according to their website. In 1994, after Julie was introduced to the zoo as a volunteer, she and Bob married.

Today, the Miners have obtained more than 200 animals “from all over the world,” according to the website. Tours led by Bob, select animal feedings, and a gift shop are offered to visitors every season except in the winter.

To many, the Miner’s story is one of eccentricity, of unequivocal love and commitment to monkeys, tigers, peacocks, camels, donkeys and other animals that might have otherwised perished were it not for human intervention.

But allegations of overfeeding of babies, of the deleterious impact of life in captivity, of the premature separation of young from their mothers, and perpetual inbreeding is something the show doesn’t cover, said Kristina Snyder, organizer of Saturday’s protest and collector of nearly 84,000 signatures from across the world for a Care2 petition that will be presented to Animal Planet as a plea to cancel the show.

“It’s tough for people to see why a place called a sanctuary is a bad thing,” Karen Coker, of Cape Elizabeth, said at the protest.

“On the surface,” Snyder added, “it seems like they’re doing a great job. I’m sure they love the animals, (and) we’re not saying they’re bad people, but if you really love these animals, the best thing to do is not breed them, not allow people to play with the cubs and not raise them in captivity.”

Snyder, of Concord, New Hampshire, has been campaigning for cancellation of the show since before the first episode aired last year.

She said she visited DEW Haven, paid $50 to feed and pet baby tiger cubs, and snapped pictures of animals that she believes have been inbred. She also claims to have spoken with anonymous zoo insiders who reportedly provided information about the selling of babies before they’re old enough to be weened from their mothers.

The taking of young animals from their mothers for commerical purposes “is a U.S. problem, it’s a worldwide problem,” Snyder said.

Last year, a white tiger cub died at the zoo from a congential neurological condition, a common outcome of inbreeding, Snyder said.

Some practices depicted in the show aren’t illegal, which is a bigger problem, Snyder said. One of her larger objectives is to draft federal legislation to make it illegal to separate cubs from their mothers during the first several months of life.

Kathy Peirce drove from Auburn, New Hampshire, to participate in the protest. The sign she held had a picture of Julie Miner holding a tiger cub by the scruff, with the words, “Stop breeding and stealing babies,” written in marker.

Peirce said she loves animals and thinks that what the Miners are doing is counterintuitive. “I think they can’t have it both ways; you can’t call yourself a haven and breed animals in captivity,” she said.

Public response on Saturday was positive, Snyder and Peirce both said. Around noon on the bright, sunny day, a police officer from the South Portland Police Department dropped off a case of bottled water.

The public’s reaffirmation is heartening for Snyder, who also operates the Facebook page, “Say NO to Yankee Jungle,” to raise public awareness.

“Another big part (of the protest and petition) is bringing awareness, making the connection for people that this is a baby animal raised in captivity,” Snyder said.

“This is an ugly business, and it needs (to) not be glorified and promoted on national television,” she continued. “When is it going to end?”

Jed Rauscher of South Portland, an executive producer for Lone Wolf Media and “Yankee Jungle,” declined to discuss the protest or whether the petition would carry any real clout.

Rauscher said his “only comment” was a descriptive summary of the show, which included, “Bob and Julie’s profound love of animals inspired them to dedicate their lives to providing homes for unwanted and discarded domestic, exotic and wild animals, which they’ve been doing successfully for more than 30 years.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

More than 20 people peacefully protested Saturday, Aug. 29, in front of Lone Wolf Media in South Portland, which produces the Animal Planet show “Yankee Jungle.”

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.
  • Chew H Bird

    I sense all sides to this issue want to do the right thing. The real question isn’t whether some rules have been bent or not, but whether the bending of such rules has allowed for better care for more animals.

    The sad and horrifying facts about animal cruelty are all too often true and happen to all species that interact with humans whether they be traditional pets like dogs, cats and hamsters, or more exotic species.

    The reality is humans often become the life stewards to other species and we are often lack the understanding, patience, time, commitment, and resources to properly care for them.

    While I (personally) might enjoy a dog or cat I do not have a lifestyle suited for their best care so instead I have a single avian friend. I am able to bring this little chirpy friend to and from my private office on a daily basis (he loves car rides). When we travel we bring him along and stay in pet friendly hotels. If we need to leave him for a few hours he enjoys music or television. He loves to fly around our home *and my office) several times a day. He comes when he is called and looks forward to his cage (which he views as his home and his turf). He even has learned to talk and he communicates with me through his flock calls and body language. He especially loves to take showers.

    Each species has different needs, however targeting a revenue stream for a sanctuary for animals rather than raising funds for assistance seems the wrong way to make a point.

    • Kristina Snyder

      We are “targeting” them because they are the private, backyard, breeding zoo that is showcased on Animal Planet, and therefore to the world. Their revenue stream comes from breeding animals. If a facility breeds animals, then they are not rescuing them and therefore not a sanctuary. There are legitimate GFAS accredited sanctuaries that do not breed. They are able to stay financially sound without revenue from breeding. When a place breeds exotic animals, they are putting more animals out into the system upon which many will actually NEED to be rescued. Places like DEW Haven are the problem!

      • Chew H Bird

        Then why not work with legislators to prevent the breeding? Why not “partner” with the “zoo” to replace breeding revenue with alternative sources of income? Instead of demonstrating against the reality of what today’s world has become, why not take a more positive position and approach the people responsible for funding the show with positive suggestions to improve the situation?

        If your concerns are valid, there are better ways (in my opinion) to improve the situation of the animals other than focusing on building negative support.

        • Kristina Snyder

          In the article it mentions that. Each year legislation is introduced and each year it dies. “One of her larger objectives is to draft federal legislation to make it illegal to separate cubs from their mothers during the first several months of life.” Check out the Big Cats Public Safety and Protection Act. This isn’t something I just decided one day just to do. My first visit there was over a year ago and nobody including DEW would even listen, much less consider stop doing what has been their business for over three decades. All of my pleas and questions have been completely ignored or dismissed as “some radical anti agenda”. They consider this their livelihood, and by all accounts do not think that breeding exotic captive animals is cruel in any way. Animal Planet has yet to acknowledge any of our concerns. It is only with this protest that we have even been able to get the media to pay attention. It is our constitutional right to demonstrate peacefully which is what we did. Now the conversation is finally being had, as prove right here. The “situation” is the breeding.

          • Chew H Bird

            Of course you have every right to protest, but I think efforts directed at the legislature which has ignored your concerns, and efforts directly targeting animal planet are a better way to proceed.

            The breeding of animals is how we maintain our meat based food sources and we treat these animals horribly. breeding of exotic animals (and pets) is also (generally) a terrible situation resulting in tragedy for the animals.

            To correct the situation, legislation that incorporates standards of care is necessary. Demonstrating against a small entity is like trying to arrest the local pot dealer instead of the large supplier.

            For all of the bad resulting from the breeding and sale of animals, I have to wonder if some of that is offset by the taking in of those that are unwanted or poorly cared for creatures. I understand the concept of cracking a few eggs to make an omlet and I am uncertain if this protest is focused on the correct eggs.

          • Kristina Snyder

            The petition does directly target Animal Planet. When you tour the facility you will find that most of the animals were born there. A volunteer happily explained to me that the mountain lion in the cage further down was the offspring of the two in front of us. Several of the lions there were born there, bobcats, badgers, domestic animals like goats and pigs as well. They even let their house cat have kittens, which considering millions of healthy cats and dogs are euthanized yearly in the United States, just shows the overall mindset of the owners. If you disagree with my course of action after over a year of my voice falling of deaf ears, that is your entitled opinion. I on the other hand feel like I was led to have this protest in order to finally even get heard.

          • Chew H Bird

            I have no information except this article to go on and your protest has certainly drawn attention to the situation which is most likely a good thing. What is published is often misleading and not vetted (I have learned this from personal experience). I only wanted to find out more about the actual situation because on the surface (as written) it seems a bit off target. If these issues you describe are happening they should be corrected. I just have seen too many well meaning people and small businesses ruined by misguided actions (internally and externally).

            I do not have enough valid information to have an official “opinion” although the article did inspire me to raise questions. Thank you for your response.

          • Kristina Snyder

            Thank you for being open for discussion. 🙂

          • Tammy Sheehan

            I urge you to look at her Say NO to Yankee Jungle page linked in the story. Check out her personal attacks and threats aimed at Bob and Julie Miner. Kristina has now partnered with another girl of a highly questionable history that has supplied her with pictures that are 15 years old and old News Paper Articles, they show what supports their cause but do not tell the whole story or the outcomes. Kristina took it upon herself to visit DEW and has her own set of pictures. I have yet to see her post any complete pictures, just zoomed or cropped with her own made up story. For example she had one of a smaller wild cat in an enclosure where she only showed half of the enclosure, while she was correct that it was not a large enclosure had she asked she would have been told the cat at the time had a medical issue that it needed to be limited in movement. Kristina has no control of comments on a News Paper article but I assure you she does on her Face Book page where you would be hard pressed to have any comments against or questioning her cause to remain on her page.