On Wednesday, May 26, 2010, the Houston SPCA, in coordination with the Houston Zoo, will pack up ‘Betsy the Bear,’ who was rescued in 2006 from deplorable living conditions, in her custom-made travel crate and ready her for an international trip to her new home, the 170-acre Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary in the Transylvanian region of Romania. Betsy, who is thought to be 30 years old, will be accompanied by Tara Yurkshat, Vice President of Animal Welfare, Houston SPCA, Dr. Maud Marin, Houston Zoo Veterinarian, and Meera Nandlal, Public Relations Manager, Houston SPCA, who will be keeping thousands of Betsy’s fans apprised every step of the way via Twitter and Facebook.
Betsy’s journey will begin with an overnight flight, courtesy of Continental Airlines, from Houston, Texas, to Frankfurt, Germany. Traveling in an air travel crate custom made for Betsy’s measurements by Animal Port Houston, she will ride in the plane’s temperature and pressure controlled cargo hold. Upon arrival on May 27 at 11:35 a.m. in Frankfurt, Betsy will be shepherded on a 24-hour drive in a climate controlled vehicle through three countries to her native Romania, where the team will deliver her to the Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary.
“Although Betsy was born in the United States, the Romanian climate and environment is ideal for her species,” said Houston SPCA President Patricia Mercer. “The return to Betsy’s native country closes the door to her abusive past and opens the door to the life she was meant to live.”
Rescued nearly four years ago in Gonzales, Texas, by the Houston SPCA along with ten other bears and two tigers, Betsy lived a life of squalor, abuse and cruelty. Betsy lived in a 5’ x 8’ cage, barely able to stand, inside a cramped poultry shed, where she had spent nine years of her life. The Houston Zoo veterinarians, assisted by the Houston SPCA staff, worked together to fix several of Betsy’s broken teeth, thought to be a result of chewing on cage bars due to lack of nutrition while in confinement. Betsy was used to perform in circus parking lots and was only fed after her ‘act’ and given water by the spray of a hose.
After her rescue, the Houston SPCA worked relentlessly to find Betsy a reputable and comfortable home in a sanctuary or zoo with no luck. Betsy was passed over many times due to her age and to lack of space. After much searching, Former CEO of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Peter Davies, offered to take Betsy to the Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary, which is funded by WSPA and run by the Romanian organization Millions of Friends, and specializes in providing sanctuary for European brown bears who have been abused.
Betsy currently lives at the Houston SPCA, where animal behaviorists, veterinarians and animal care staff provide her with proper food, shelter and medical care. Betsy’s diet consists of 15 pounds of food twice daily, including meats, salmon, fruits, vegetables and her favorite treat, frozen grapes. She enjoys splashing in her bath tub and loves standing under the sprinkler. Betsy’s favorite movie is “Finding Nemo,” especially the shark scene with the fish playing ping-pong. Once rescued, the Houston SPCA sheltered and cared for Betsy for more than four years. Donations will support her incredible journey ‘home’ and will allow the Houston SPCA to continue to rescue and care for other animals just like her.
The Houston SPCA is the only shelter in the Greater Gulf Coast area with the ability to provide humane, temporary shelter to large exotic animals, including bears like Betsy and big cats such as lions and tigers. The Houston SPCA receives no funding from the government, United Way or national animal protection organizations like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) or the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). For more information, visit www.houstonspca.org.