Polk County man sues Howard Baskin, Big Cat Rescue over custody of lioness

Tampa, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County courthouse has become the stage for a lawsuit between a Polk County man and Big Cat Rescue, made famous in recent years through the Netflix show “Tiger King.” Big Cat Rescue is a non-profit registered in Citrus Park.

Big Cat Rescue, and CEO Howard Baskin, face a custody lawsuit over a 4-year-old lioness, named Juma, or Koda, depending on who is talking about the lioness. Roy Pinson, the plaintiff, called the lioness Juma, while Big Cat Rescue changed her name to Koda when taking custody of the animal.

At the heart of the lawsuit is the ownership of Juma or Koda. Pinson alleges in her lawsuit that after directly and personally caring for a lioness since 2018, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stripped her of guardianship due to issues with the law. bureaucracy, and gave the lioness to Carole and Howard Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue.

Pinson said, through the legal brief, that “due to the paperwork issues that FWC and I are experiencing, I need to file an appeal,” FWC receiving Juma. “I filed an appeal, but they came and arrested Juma.” The FWC told Pinson he did not file an appeal, according to Pinson’s complaint. When he showed them proof of the filing on his phone, FWC allegedly told him it wasn’t filed with the correct court and took the lioness to Big Cat Rescue.

Pinson filed the lawsuit, allegedly fearing that Juma wouldn’t do well at the nonprofit due to a change in habits and not getting “regular love” from Pinson, who says he still feeds her with his hand. “Juma will be stripped of all my human contact” while at Baskin’s animal sanctuary.

Pinson also said in his synopsis that he had never abused Juma, and that “his concern was that she might be depressed.” Pinson said that Juma has “not eaten like she should” since being taken to Big Cat Rescue.

“Both Juma and her owner are trapped by Carole Baskin’s roadside zoo company greed and FWC’s desire for power inequalities between the FWC, the legislature, and the Supreme Court. Florida high,” according to Pinson’s lawsuit.

On the Big Cat Rescue website, they describe getting Koda as an aid to law enforcement in a seizure. According to Big Cat Rescue, Koda is being monitored but allowed to explore and has “since made a good and easy recovery” after being transported to the sanctuary as a sedative.

Koda’s first update at Big Cat Rescue was published on March 2.

In subsequent posts, the nonprofit shared photos and videos of the lioness at Sanctuary.

On April 18, Carole Baskin posted an article discussing Pinson’s lawsuit. “Never was a previous owner successful in asking the court to force the wildlife agency to send a cat to a place of their choice, after the cat was sent to us, but it happened. We had no choice but to comply with the court order and FWC’s request that we arrest her and take her to that facility. We don’t know if we can reveal where she went. ”

Big Cat Rescue’s Koda website outlines a range of health concerns they’ve noticed when vetting female lionesses. According to their website, “We have renamed her Koda in compliance with the FWC’s desire that we not share any details of their pending criminal case online.”

According to Big Cat Rescue. As a result, Pinson was able to let Juma, as he called her, move to another licensed establishment.

Baskins, on their website for Koda, alleges that Pinson did not have the proper license to own Koda and did not provide adequate healthcare.

“Pinson claims that he has three veterinarians that he uses to care for Koda. In our view, the preventable problems that lionesses suffer are a violation of both Florida and USDA rules, which require owners to provide appropriate veterinary care,” said Baskins. stated on their Koda page. Their blog states that they believe Pinson’s facility “has no water or electricity,” leading to “acute kidney disease and severe parasitic infection.”

On the website, they allege Pinson wanted to breed lionesses. The blog says there are different types of permits that individuals can get to care for big cats in Florida, including one called a “sanctuary permit,” which is allowed under FWC rule 68A-6.006 .

Due to Pinson’s apparent interest in breeding Juma, Big Cat Rescue said online that it was concerned about the type of license to obtain.

“We believe Pinson has voiced his desire to obtain this license,” the Big Cat Rescue blog writes. “But in court documents, Pinson asserts Koda is valuable because of the value of the cubs she can produce, which shows that we intend to breed her.”

The legal complaint filed by Pinson states that “to the best of Plaintiff’s knowledge, information and belief, the value of the property exceeds $30,000.00 based on an 18-20 year lifespan with breeding potential 8-18 pups” each with a market value of about $14,000 to $112,000 or as high as $22,000 per litter.

However, the document also includes Pinson’s allegations that Baskins and Big Cat Rescue received the lioness through a “secret agreement” between FWC and Big Cat Rescue to provide a lioness for the sanctuary. for fundraising purposes.

“At some point prior to October 6, 2021, Plaintiff was targeted by Co-defendant Howard Baskin and Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue Corporation to ensure that FWC assisted her in obtaining it. an African lion by any means necessary, including by illegal and means unconstitutional,” Pinson’s complaint.

Additionally, Pinson alleges “evidence that the reason Lieutenant Louis Hinds interfered with and discouraged the USDA licensing check was that Lieutenant Hinds made a confidentiality agreement to ensure that “Baskins” will be the first to choose and own an African lioness, free for Baskins. “

Pinson also asserted in its summary that the FWC used “unprecedented extraterritorial powers” against a legally operating animal business, and in doing so, the FWC commissioners issued ” a direct challenge to the founding American principles of government checks and balances” through their behavior in the case of Pinson and Juma.

Plaintiffs allege the FWC “abused its quasi-judicial power in a manner that threatened the independence, authority, and primary role of the Florida Supreme Court” and the judicial branch of government in the state.

Pinson said Big Cat Rescue continues to “exploit” lionesses for fundraising purposes.

Pinson’s complaint also alleges a “nefarious agenda” between Baskins and Big Cat Rescue, and the FWC, to “falsely conclude that Plaintiff lied to FWC” while presenting evidence to the agency. regarding its appeal. Pinson All at her home base”.

His complaint said that the FWC’s actions were a threat to law and order and a threat to the public, as well as a threat to representative democracy in a country. constitutional republic.

Pinson is seeking damages for the loss of valuable property, Juma’s boarding fees, and attorney’s fees. Court records show the lawsuit listed in a scope for damages sought above $100,000.

WFLA.com has contacted all parties mentioned or related to the litigation, including Pinson, Baskins and Big Cat Rescue, and FWC.

“It is our policy not to comment on ongoing litigation,” Howard Baskin said in response to WFLA.com’s request for comment.

The FWC issued a similar statement, telling WFLA.com that “the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will not comment on Mr. Roy Pinson’s personal views on the agency or the lawsuit. pending. FWC removed a lion from Mr. Pinson and transferred it to temporary boarding for a licensed facility, Big Cat Rescue. The lion was released to Mr. Pinson for placement at a licensed facility approved by the Commission.

Representatives for Pinson have not yet responded to a request for comment on the litigation.

https://www.wfla.com/news/local-news/polk-county-man-sues-howard-baskin-big-cat-rescue-over-custody-of-lioness/ Polk County man sues Howard Baskin, Big Cat Rescue over custody of lioness

Alley Einstein

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