Cat People Get, Well, Catty

Calvin Godfrey

Alan Rigerman with Chaos, his cougar

Following the publication of Cat People,

Alan Rigerman’s star has risen tenfold. And by that, we mean, he made it on a Spanish-language morning show, Despierta America. He brought his cougar, a lizard and Anthony, a masseuse in-training who helps Rigerman handle his cats.

Because he cannot speak Spanish, Rigerman was translated in real time. He ogled the dancing girls and complimented the host on his portliness.

But this marginal rise in his notoriety has also attracted some negative attention: A woman by the name of Carol Baskin purchased the names and addresses of big cat owners from the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission and has taken it upon herself to begin writing the neighbors of captive wildlife owners. She sent a draft of her letter to New Times.

“Keeping wild animals in private collections is cruel to the animals and dangerous to you,” she wrote. Baskin, who runs a facility in Citrus Park called Big Cat Rescue, has stirred controversy since the disappearance of her husband, Don. Some of her detractors have alleged she fed him to her tigers.

In March 2006 a group of her former volunteers went to Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay and accused her of lying about the rescue aspect of her operation. Most of her animals had been bought and bred on premises, they said. She told the station she had been very open about being a former breeder and suspected her former volunteers were only angry that she had now come out in opposition to the pet trade.

In the meantime, Rigerman has been sharpening his talons.

His cougars were recently inspected by Federal and State wildlife authorities. “They were very nice,” he said. “They couldn’t believe how well I kept them.”

He spent all day Tuesday on the phone with the FBI in Virginia (he does not think the Miami office takes him seriously enough). He is worried about the militant wing of animal rights extremists. “Some people believe that the mainstream animal rights people support, financially and ideologically, the animal rights extremists,” Rigerman said, careful to mind his p’s and q’s. -- Calvin Godfrey

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Frank Houston