FARMINGTON -- Davis County Fair organizers have been swamped this week with e-mails -- perhaps in the thousands -- after a Florida-based animal-rights organization initiated a protest over the primary attraction at next month's fair.
The protest centers on Davis County's booking of an exotic- animal show featuring lions, leopards and tigers for the fair, which runs Aug. 18-21 at the Legacy Events Center.
The e-mail protest is the second set of problems for fair organizers after Texas-based Great Cat Adventures, the first company booked for the animal show, backed out of its contract and lost its license with U.S. Department of Agriculture.
County officials had titled this year's fair the "Mane Event" and used a lion's picture as part of the fair's promotional materials.
"We had all our marketing centered around bringing those cats to the fair. We scrambled to try and find a replacement," David Hansen, Legacy Events Center director, said Wednesday.
Hansen said the fair reached an agreement with Welch's Entertainment of Oklahoma to provide another animal display, although the deal is not yet complete.
Despite the new company, the barrage of e-mail continues.
The organization Big Cat Rescue, a nonprofit educational sanctuary in Tampa, Fla., on Monday asked its online supporters to protest after learning of the Davis County show.
"The fair that hires these exhibitors, consequently, becomes complicit in the horrors of this part of the exotic animal industry," wrote Julie Hanan, who describes herself as the senior keeper at Big Cat Rescue.
Hanan argues Welch's Entertainment, like Great Cat Adventures, has a history of USDA violations, suspensions and fines for animal abuse and public endangerment.
But the Oklahoma company disputes that statement.
"Welch's Entertainment has never been in violation with the USDA," said Joe Finlay, a spokesman for the company.
USDA records do show Great Cat Adventures with licensing problems, but there is little online at the federal website regarding Welch's Entertainment.
Both sides admit that animal shows, under the same ownership, often change company names and locations and that the industry gets little public attention for its problems.
Davis County Fair officials said Great Cat Adventures had a license when they booked the company.
Since then, Hansen said they have done both their own records check and spoken with the USDA about Welch's and feel satisfied with the response.
Finlay said Welch's Entertainment financially supports a separate sanctuary to help with animals that are abandoned once their "show" life is over.
In the meantime, there could be more e-mail to deal with in coming days.
Big Cat Rescue's Carole Baskin said she expects nearly 6,000 online notes or more from her supporters to be sent to Davis County officials.