MADISON (WKOW) -- A UW-Madison law school student group is trying to stop a Wisconsin Dells resort from continuing to use tigers in a magic show and from building a hotel lobby habitat for the animals.
Law school student Roxie Rewolinski of the University's chapter of the animal legal defense fund said animal handler Mark Schoebel, the man who provides the Chula Vista resort with the white, Siberian tigers has a checkered history. Schoebel pleaded guilty in the nineties in a federal case involving Schoebel's provision of black bears for slaughter. In the 1999 book, Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for rare and exotic species, author Alan Green and the Center for Public Integrity cite several instances of animal trafficking and questionable animal care by Schoebel.
"Mark Schoebel does not take animal welfare into consideration," Rewolinski told WKOW27 News.
Rewolinski also said preliminary plans for the construction of the animal habitat at the resort involve too small a space by animal care standards if housing more than one tiger.
Rewolinski is circulating a campus petition to try to stop the tigers' presence at the resort.
Chula Vista chief executive officer Mark Kaminski has told 27 News safety and proper care of the show's tigers are paramount, and has praised Schoebel's animal handling.
Wisconsin department of agriculture, trade and consumer protection spokesperson Donna Gilson told 27 News on March 1st state officials had referred an investigation into Schoebel's activities to Marquette County district attorney Richard DuFour and asked for Schoebel's prosecution. Gilson said one of the investigation's findings was Schoebel "illegally imported a tiger and a moose."
But late Thursday, Gilson revised her earlier statement in an e-mail.
"We have dealt with illegal imports over the years administratively," Gilson wrote.
"Among those instances was a case of 3 tiger cubs coming in without certificates of veterinary inspection."
Gilson said the animals were quarantined, and when the tigers were found to be healthy the quarantine was released.
In the e-mail, Gilson wrote the referral for prosecution against Schoebel involved the alleged intrastate movement of deer, and handling deer without a proper license.
When 27 News contacted Schoebel, he said he followed the terms of his federal and state licenses and treated animals in his care properly.
Wisconsin Dells officials had expressed some concerns over Schoebel's transportation of tigers from his property to the resort.
In December 2008, a Siberian lynx, which is a wild animal slightly larger than a bobcat, escaped as Schoebel's firm moved the animal. The lynx was captured after roaming near homes in Wisconsin Dells.
But Wisconsin Dells alder person Debbie Kinder told 27 News Schoebel assured her the animal's escape was an anomaly, and that transporting tigers would be safe and carried out in accordance with federal requirements.
Schoebel also operates Timbavati Wildlife Park in Lake Delton between May and September.
Online reporting by Tony Galli