More than one million viewers tune in every Sunday night to watch Animal Planet’s hit reality show, “Call of the Wildman.” The show features Ernie Brown Jr., better known as ‘Turtleman,” a wildlife rescuer from Kentucky who catches trouble-making animals and releases them back into the wild. Recently, accusations have swirled against Animal Planet and Sharp Entertainment, the show’s production company, alleging animal mistreatment.
The online magazine Mother Jones made the accusations after finding “evidence of a culture that tolerated legally and ethically dubious activities.”
The activities in question include “using an animal that had been drugged with sedatives in violation of federal rules; directing trappers to procure wild animals, which were then ‘caught’ again as part of a script; and wrongly filling out legal documents detailing the crew’s wildlife activities for Kentucky officials.”
Both Animal Planet and Sharp Entertainment have denied any wrongdoing. The network released a statement that said in part:
“The life and welfare of all animals is of paramount importance to Animal Planet. It is core to our ethos that every animal’s life has value… The notion that there is a culture of ‘neglect’ at the only network that is devoted to celebrating and protecting animals is absurd.”
“Claims in the Mother Jones article were brought to the production company’s attention nearly nine months ago,” the statement continued. “Where appropriate, Sharp Entertainment promptly instituted changes to further ensure the welfare of animals while filming the series.”
Senior VP of Sharp Entertainment, Dan Adler, commented on CNN’s New Day, “The idea that there is a culture of neglect or abuse on the show is completely false … Everyone on the show from staff to talent love animals.”
“The idea that animals are killed or drugged on ‘Call of the Wildman’ is false,” he continued.
“Nuisance animals” are usually euthanized in Kentucky, but the show has given hundreds of animals “a second lease on life,” according to Adler.
The USDA is currently “fact-finding” to determine whether any of the activities fall under the Animal Welfare Act.
“Once we have an opportunity to look into the situation, we will work to determine our next steps,” said USDA spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa. “If we determine an investigation is warranted, we will open one.”
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