Michael Jackson Did Not Love Animals

January 29, 2015

West Hollywood, California (Monday, July 6, 2009) – Michael Jackson did not love animals. He loved to collect them. He loved owning them, like a sheik owns a harem.

Michael Jackson’s abandoned private exotic zoo. Photo by TMZ. WeHo News.

As details emerge about the bizarre life and death of Michael Jackson, questions about the animals who were housed in his private zoo remain unanswered.

Members of the animal welfare community wonder whether Jackson was truly an animal lover or merely a neglectful collector who abandoned his dozens of exotic pets, leaving them to be scattered, with no endowment, in different facilities around the country.

TMZ.com has released recent photographs of Michael Jackson’s abandoned private exotic zoo. The photographs are of the emptied interior and the abandoned grounds of Jackson’s Neverland Ranch north of Santa Barbara. The photographs of the zoo enclosures are particularly disturbing to some in the animal protection movement.

Jackson owned wild animals, including giraffes, elephants, tigers, crocodiles and monkeys and housed them in what appears to be caged conditions.

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Though the animals’ enclosures might not have been illegal, they were inhumane. And though no animals currently reside there, their former home reveals much about how his animals lived.

Michael Jackson’s abandoned private exotic zoo’s elephant cages. Photo by TMZ. WeHo News.

Mr. Jackson bought the ranch in the late 1980s. There, he set up a zoo to house exotic pets. What happened to them when he left the ranch – and the United States – after his acquittal on charges that he molested a teenage cancer survivor in 2003?

There are numerous reports that the animals were sold at auction, that some went to sanctuaries, that some are being warehoused in Arizona, that caretakers were not paid after he left the property and that Michael Jackson was sued by his veterinarian for a six-figure unpaid bill for treatment of the Neverland animals.

Though the rooms inside the home look luxurious, the enclosures for his private collection of large, wild animals look woefully inadequate. The cages and outdoor enclosures appear not to meet the minimum standards of humane care that is required for the well being of the animals living there. The photos of the elephant cage tell the story of a grim existence.

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“It’s a very small space with a concrete floor which is detrimental to elephants’ joints and feet,” says Catherine Doyle, elephant specialist and Los Angeles director of campaigns for In Defense of Animals. “It looks like a concrete cell. It’s no way to keep an elephant; there’s no way that type of enclosure could ever meet their needs. It’s a depressing, small, impoverished space.”

Michael Jackson with Bubbles. WeHo News.

“Elephants walk tens of miles a day and their home ranges measure hundreds of square miles,” continued Catherine Doyle. “They have extremely complex social structures and they live in tightly knit family groups in which the females stay together for life. It’s like looking at a prison cell looking at these pictures.”

A woman named Freddie Hancock owns the Arizona building that is warehousing two dozen of Jackson’s animals. She told “Inside Edition” that she bought the animals from Jackson but admits she has no experience handling wild animals and did her own research on taking care of them.

On July 1, CNN issued a report that featured Bubbles, the Chimpanzee Jackson brought on tour with him in the 80’s. When Bubbles became “too difficult” (Bubbles bit a hole in Quincy Jone’s daughter’s hand) he was returned to the trainer who originally bought him from a facility in Texas that breeds chimps for research.

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The trainer handed Bubbles over to the Great Apes Sanctuary in Florida, where he is retired and thriving with other chimpanzees. As in the case of other Neverland animals, he was surrendered with no endowment for their care.

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MJ with his snake. WeHo News.

Fans of Michael Jackson insist he loved Bubbles but a more skeptical look at TMZ’s photos of Bubbles’ former cage reveals that he lived not in an atmosphere of love, but one of confinement. He lived a solitary existence in a cage, on display.

Chimpanzees are social animals and thrive in a naturalistic environment with other chimpanzees. Bubbles was dressed like a toddler and treated like an entertainer for Michael Jackson’s pleasure. He is certainly happy now, climbing and enjoying the company of friends, not gawkers.

According to the London Standard, two of Michael Jackson’s tigers did not find buyers when his zoo animals were auctioned. Tipi Hedren, who is the mother of actress Melanie Griffith, adopted the tigers after animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) broke the news of the deplorable conditions the animals were living under.

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“They, as did 98% of the animals requiring sanctuary at the Shambala Preserve, came with no bank account or dowry,” said Tipi Hedren.

“As a sanctuary, that’s what we do. We rescue exotic felines who have been born in the U.S. to be sold as pets or for commercial use. It is a grave human error to acquire a wild animal as a pet.”

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Michael Jackson bought the Neverland ranch in the late 1980s and soon set up a zoo to house exotic pets. WeHo News.

As the public waits to discover the contents of the Michael Jackson family trust, a private document that instructs how his assets are to be distributed, some of us in the animal protection movement hope that the animals he abandoned were not cut out of his will.

Michael Jackson might have professed to love animals but upon closer inspection, his relationship to them was less than loving. You don’t sell your pets when you tire of them. Nor should you buy pets that you can’t commit to for their lifetime. A responsible pet guardian makes arrangements for their care.

Michael Jackson used wild animals for his entertainment and as a lure to delight the children he wanted to surround himself with and then he abandoned them, both financially and emotionally.

Supposedly unable to care for his private zoo as a result of “financial troubles,” Jackson continued his lavish spending right until the end, where he was leasing a California castle for $100,000 a month while his former animals, the ones lucky enough to live in sanctuaries, depend on donations from the public.

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Michael Jackson never visited Bubbles once he discarded him. Maybe John Branca, the executor of his estate, will throw him a banana.

Carole Raphaelle Davis is author of “The Diary of Jinky, Dog of a Hollywood Wife” and West Coast Director of the Companion Animal Protection Society www.caps-web.org .