Skip to main content

Report: Minnesota big cat sanctuary spent funds on racy books, underwear

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

The founder and executive director of the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minnesota used donated funds to purchase personal items that included two books by comedienne Chelsea Handler, women's underwear and hair-removal products, according to the Ramsey County District Court.

The 30-page "Assurance of Discontinuance" agreement says sanctuary founder Tammy Thies also received double reimbursements for some items, used sanctuary money for her personal property taxes in 2009 and 2010 and was paid more than $4,900 for use of her cellphone from 2009 to 2012, among other things.

The agreement, which is signed by Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Dukart and Gail Plewacki, the sanctuary's board chairwoman, states that the "findings in the Assurance do not constitute admissions by (the Wildcat Sanctuary) or its board of directors and should not be construed as such."

The agreement also says the board is accountable for getting its finances in order and lists, in detail, how the sanctuary must go about achieving that goal.

“Our agreement with the attorney general helps us focus on the most important changes we need to make to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past," Plewacki said, according to Duluth News Tribune.

If the sanctuary violates the agreement, it could face sanctions or legal proceedings, the agreement says.

The organization says the money used for Thies' property taxes has been repaid and the nonprofit's bookkeeping has been outsourced to an accounting firm, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

Thies, who remains the sanctuary's executive director, founded the nonprofit facility in 1999 with 10 cats on 10 acres. It is now home to more than 100 lions, tigers and other large cats on nearly 40 acres, which serves as a natural habitat for the animals, according to the organization's website. The Wildcat Sanctuary hopes to "inspire change to end the captive wildlife crisis."

The organization has been dealing with accusations of misused funds since March 2013, when sanctuary employees complained about Thies' spending. In April 2013, the president at the time issued a report finding financial impropriety on Thies' part. The sanctuary's board hired a law firm, which also found improprieties, the Duluth News Tribune says.

Thies wrote a letter and posted a video about the future of the Wildcat Sanctuary, which were published on the organization's website on Tuesday.

In the letter, Thies writes that she and the board of directors have learned a lot from the accusations and are taking the steps necessary to ensure they keep the public's trust. She admits that they made mistakes, which resulted in scrutiny, but stressed that the cats always did – and will – come first.

Thies also thanked the sanctuary's donors for their continued support.

Next Up

Eli Hart

Charges: 6-year-old Eli Hart shot up to 9 times by his mother

The 28-year-old is facing 2nd-degree murder charges.

dave lee wcco radio

Former WCCO Radio host Dave Lee moves into podcasts

His new podcast, called 'My First Concert,' launched last week.

Tow Boat

Tow boat collides with Mississippi River lock and dam in Alma, WI

The crash remains under investigation by the United States Coast Guard.

unsplash school bus

Police: Man in minivan approached kids, claimed he was former principal

Investigators say children were approached by a man in a white minivan who falsely claimed he'd been a local school principal.

covid

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, May 23

The latest from the state health department.

police tape, crime scene

Police: 2 people shot, 1 fatally over the weekend in La Crosse

Officers arrived to the scene and found one person suffering multiple gunshot wounds.

Bear killed after it attacked couple in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin couple fight, kill bear that broke into their home

The incident happened last week in north-central Wisconsin.

Image from iOS (2)

Urban Outfitters store in Uptown to close

A number of national chains have departed Uptown in recent years.

Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 6.41.22 AM

USS Minneapolis-St. Paul officially launched in Duluth ceremony

It's the first U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned in Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 9.56.21 AM

North High principal Mauri Friestleben returning to finish year

The principal said Friday she had been fired from her role over her support of a student protest.

ambulance

One dead, two injured in wrong-way crash on Hwy. 169

The crash occurred on Highway 169 early Sunday morning.

minneapolis police

Man fatally shot overnight in north Minneapolis

The shooting was reported around 2:20 a.m.

Related