A group demonstrating outside of Lone Wolf Media in South Portland calls on Animal Planet to drop the series, “Yankee Jungle.”

Those protesting the television show, “Yankee Jungle,” in South Portland Saturday admitted the series, which features the DEW Haven animal sanctuary in Mount Vernon, makes for “perfect TV material.”

But they also say that the sanctuary owners, Bob and Julie Miner, are irresponsible and should not be breeding their exotic animals, particularly the big cats, that they should not allow cub petting and that their sanctuary should not be promoted.

In fact, the protesters called DEW Haven nothing more than a “roadside zoo” where the animals are kept in small, unsanitary enclosures.

Karen Coker, an animal rights advocate from Cape Elizabeth who helped to organize the protest, also said that DEW Haven “has been on my radar for a long time” as a place that engages in what she calls “animal cruelty.”

It was her idea to hold the protest outside the office of Lone Wolf Media, on Cottage Road in South Portland, because the company is the one that produces “Yankee Jungle” and sold the show to Animal Planet.

Coker said she watched the first three episodes of “Yankee Jungle,” and was appalled and disturbed by “all the contradictions,” including the Miners saying that wild animals are not pets and yet, she said, the couple treats many of their exotic animals just like pets.

“DEW Haven is a unique place and Bob Miner is extremely colorful and charismatic, which makes for perfect TV material,” Coker said, but “there is no questioning of what goes on at DEW Haven and there is no opposite viewpoint.”

Coker said that DEW Haven, which started in 1980, has been given “a free pass by the press for too long” and the sanctuary is “always shown in a positive and unquestioning way.”

Kristina Snyder, from New Hampshire, is the organizer of an online petition, started last year on the Care2 website, which calls on Animal Planet to drop “Yankee Jungle” from its schedule.

In a press release that announced Saturday’s protest, Snyder said the show’s “sympathetic portrayal of (DEW Haven) as an animal rescue operation and sanctuary masks its exotic animal abuse.”

On Saturday, Snyder told the Current she has visited DEW Haven several times and she’s concerned that the television show provides a platform for the irresponsible breeding of animals in captivity. She’s also unhappy that the Miners seem to treat their animals as a commodity and not as creatures deserving of their utmost care.

For their part, the Miners say that DEW Haven is a place “dedicated to taking in all kinds of animals, including unwanted and discarded ones, who have nowhere else to go,” and one that provides “a safe environment” for the animals.

The Miners have more than 200 animals on 27 acres of land. They said that DEW Haven is a nonprofit that is open to the public seasonally, and one that is licensed by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Inland Fish & Wildlife.

In an email to the Current, the Miners said, “We do what we do because we have a profound love and respect for these animals. We open our grounds to the public in order to educate our visitors about conservation and in hopes of fostering their love and respect for wildlife.”

The couple also said that many of the animals that have found a home at DEW Haven would have been “euthanized had they not come here.”

The Miners added, “We provide a safe haven for many types of animals and have dedicated our lives to meeting their needs, enriching their lives and improving their habitats. We are proud of the high quality husbandry we provide for them.”

And, while the television show has brought some negative attention to their operation, the Miners say, “The show has brought out many new supporters both financially and emotionally. People love animals and want to see them cared for with love and respect.”

Lone Wolf Media did not provide any comment regarding the protest held outside its offices, nor did the company have much to say about its role in bringing “Yankee Jungle” to television.

Kirk and Lisa Wolfinger founded the company in 1997 and Lone Wolf now provides filming and production services for many cable channels, including Discovery, History, Smithsonian Channel and National Geographic.

Recent productions, according to the company’s website, include “Witch Hunt,” “Ice Cold Gold,” “Titanic’s Final Moments,” “Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower” and “Underwater Universe.”

The company has also just announced that PBS has picked up a new Civil War drama series, entitled “Mercy Street.” Executive producers for the series, which is slated to screen on Sunday nights in the winter of 2016, include Lisa Wolfinger and Ridley Scott, according to Variety.

In an email, Jed Rauscher, an executive producer at Lone Wolf Media, said, “Bob and Julie’s profound love of animals inspired them to dedicate their lives to providing homes for unwanted and discarded domestic, exotic and wild animals, which they’ve been doing successfully for more than 30 years.”

However, according to the online petition that calls on Animal Planet to drop “Yankee Jungle,” DEW Haven is a place where animals are kept in “unsanitary, unsafe (and) depressing enclosures.”

The petition also claims that DEW Haven “breeds exotic (animals) for profit,” a charge the Miners emphatically deny.

The online petition also states that the animals at DEW Haven “live in cramped enclosures with few opportunities for stimulation or enrichment” and that “this type of facility shouldn’t be promoted.”

Among the protesters’ biggest concerns, according to both Coker and Snyder, is that the airing of “Yankee Jungle” will “just perpetuate the exotic pet problem, which is rampant in the United States, and leave actual, accredited sanctuaries inundated with older, unwanted exotics.”

On its website DEW Haven states that it’s “a working farm, not a commercial zoo” where the “main purpose is to educate people about animals. Through education we hope to inspire young and old alike to take an active roll in the conservation of wildlife.”

The sanctuary’s website also states it’s a place where “the animals’ needs always come first.”

But, Snyder and Coker both said the Miners should be called to account for running a breeding program that only perpetuates the problem of exotic animals being held in captivity.

“A demonstration was needed,” Snyder said of Saturday’s protest, “because no one is paying attention.”

More than a dozen people, mostly from Maine and New Hampshire, gathered outside the office of Lone Wolf Media in South Portland Saturday to protest the Animal Planet show, “Yankee Jungle,” which features the DEW Haven animal sanctuary in Mount Vernon.Staff photo by Kate Irish CollinsBob Miner, who owns the DEW Haven animal sanctuary in Mount Vernon with his wife Julie, is pictured with one of their exotic animals – a wallaby.Courtesy photo


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