Claremore Daily Progress

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May 19, 2011

Wild Heart Ranch launches secondary ‘support’ site

FOYIL — With the USDA’s dictum for Wild Heart Ranch to stop using photos of animals being rehabilitated, WHR director/wildlife rehabilitation expert Annette King Tucker has had to get creative when it comes to asking for donations.

Very creative.

A quick Google search for “Wild Heart Ranch” will now yield two sites dedicated to the goings-on at the rural Claremore wildlife rehabilitation facility, one with, one without animal photos.

“We realize it’s very different,” Tucker said, “but it’s what we’ve had to do to comply with the USDA and still be able to let people know we need donations — they won’t even let us ask on our Facebook page when we’re running low on supplies.”

Last month, Tucker was contacted by representatives from the USDA who felt her Foyil-based wildlife rehabilitation facility was an operational zoo, and as such, she would be required to obtain a zoo keeper’s license.

Without Tucker having what the USDA considers to be a “proper license,” she would be (and currently is) prohibited from using any photos or videos of animals in conjunction with fund-raising purposes — a move which Tucker has said would “practically kill” her ability to solicit donations for the rural Claremore wildlife rehabilitation center.

“Basically, the USDA is under the impression that Wild Heart Ranch operates both as a wildlife rehabilitation facility and as an exhibitor of animals for profit,” said attorney Patrick Abitbol. “As such, they’re seeking to require (Wild Heart Ranch owner/operator) Annette (King Tucker) to get an animal exhibitor license from the USDA.”

“Without us being able to show people the fruits of our efforts and labors, that completely kills our ability to show people how the animals are when they come to us, and how they look once they’ve been nursed back to health,” she said. “We can tell them in words as much as we want, but seeing pictures a horse brought in to us that’s near death side by side with photos of that same horse after months of care and rehabilitation — there’s really no substitute for showing people those kind of success stories, and that’s what’s being taken away from us.”

Although Abitbol and Wild Heart Ranch attorneys are still seeking a “mutually satisfactory resolution” with the USDA, until one is reached, Tucker has been charged with either removing all images of animals from her website or refrain from requesting donations.

She did both.

In response to the USDA’s mandate, Tucker removed the Pay Pal button and any requests for donations from the WRH website, but she created and launched a secondary site, echoing the first, but with one major exception — no animals.

“The second site is basically identical to the first — it mirrors it exactly — only with all the pictures and videos of the animals ‘cut out’ — where an animal would be, there’s just an empty ‘hole’ which I think looks pretty silly, myself, but it complies with what the USDA has asked of us,” she said. “On that site, there is a Pay Pal button and we can tell people about our need for funding — it’s kind of a weird thing, but it was what we had to do to keep the door open for us to ask for donations.”

Another means by which Tucker is currently hoping to literally win funding is through a national online contest for “America’s Favorite Shelter.”

“The contest is co-sponsored by the ASPCA, Adopt-a-Pet.com, and Care2, and the shelter that earns the most votes or ‘likes’ will win $15,000 — that would help us a LOT — I can’t tell you how much that kind of money would help our operations,” she said. “Right now, we’re holding in second place, so we need more votes — we’re asking people to got to www.care2.com/animalsheltercontest and vote for us — it takes maybe two or three minutes and it could make such a difference in what we do and the lives of the animals that come to us.”

As Tucker has said, the situation regarding the USDA has been “extremely discouraging,” but she’s trying to keep her chin up and hope for a resolution between her attorneys and the USDA which would permit her to show, not just tell, people about the work she days at Wild Heart.

“I’ve always said that I don’t do this for myself — there’s no money in it for me and I’m certainly not doing this for attention or fame — the bottom line is that I and all the volunteers are here for the animals and the animals only,” she said. “Most of us spend our own money and use our own resources to help these animals that might otherwise be crippled for life or die if we weren’t here.”

Wild Heart Ranch’s primary (non-fund requesting) website is at www.wildheartranch.org. Wild Heart’s secondary (support) site is at www.support.wildheartranch.org.

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