headed for the- light.
|Purred: Fri Sep 17, '10 8:44pm PST |
|IF you are really getting this, you had better look at messybeast.com; there is a whole page about the Ashera cat--it is a scam, and the cats are Savannahs that are being misrepresented...
This is only part of what's there, and there are many links to other sources--watch your wallet!
THE MURKY BACKGROUND OF THE ASHERA AND ALLERCA
The "Ashera" Serval hybrid recently appeared in the media as an exotic pet with a premium price tag. The Ashera is a marketing, rather than breeding, venture and its creator is a convicted fraudster with a history of leaving other people out of pocket. Both the Ashera and his previous invention, the hypoallergenic Allerca cat, fit into his pattern of persuading people to part with large amounts of money up-front for franchises and hyped products that appear too good to be true. His several pet-related schemes, though hyped in his companies' press releases, have attracted adverse media and legal attention.
In October 2006, the Sand Diego Union Tribune reported that Brodie's company was launching the Ashera franchise ($45,000 each) in March 2007. Asheras would cost $6,000 each. Advance photos sent to prospective franchises were of African Servals. The Ashera, when unveiled, was not a Serval lookalike, but was a repackaging of an existing hybrid breed called the Savannah.
The serval photos used in the emails were owned by photographer Tim Knight and taken from his website without permission. Savannah breeders say that the cat once depicted on Lifestyle Pets site was a Savannah though the site did not identify it as such. In fact Allerca/Lifestyle Pets refused to show pictures of the actual Ashera breed until the franchises had been launched – in other words, franchisees were asked to pay for an unknown cat.
In press releases and interviews, Brodie says the Ashera is a serval crossed with an undisclosed type of purebred cat. The F1 hybrid females are then bred to another top-secret purebred and the F2 generation is the Ashera. Elsewhere, Lifestyle Pets claimed to have merged two wild bloodlines. This merging of wild bloodlines had already been done by Savannah breeders who used the Bengal breed (Asian Leopard Cat hybrid) with servals. The undisclosed purebreds are widely believed to be Bengals (some Bengals contain Margay genes from foundation stock and have, therefore, already merged 2 wild bloodlines!).
Brodie initially attempted to obtain breeding Savannah (serval-hybrid) cats by deception. He ordered several breeding Savannah females from Chicago-based breeder Cynthia King in August 2006 using a false name of Campbell Francis from a company called Monsenco Capital. A San Diego man with a British accent wanted to buy between 5 and 7 F1 Savannah females that were proven breeders. The address used in the sale contract is also used on a US Patent and Trademark Office application covering the "Ashera” name.
The man told King that his partner, Megan Young, whom he identified as a veterinarian, would be caring for the animals. Megan Young was Allerca's chief executive officer and is not a vet. Campbell Francis/Simon Brodie promised the cheque ($7000 per proven breeder) was in the post, but he never delivered the money and never got the cats.
He admitted approaching Savannah breeders, using a false name, to buy breeding cats, but claimed the subterfuge was to ensure King didn't hike the price if she knew he represented Allerca. He claimed his company's cat breeding experts required the Savannahs in order to devise “the right formula” for the Ashera. He also claimed he mistakenly (rather than fraudulently) identified Megan Young as a veterinarian. He further claimed the deal wasn't closed because Allerca ultimately didn't need the cats. So why did he keep claiming the cheque was in the post if he didn't actually need the cats? Having failed to get Savannah foundation stock he then produced a much-hyped copycat serval hybrid intending to franchise it.
Brodie's view is that Lifestyle Pets is not breeding Savannahs, so he doesn't know what's irritating them so much. What is irritating them is the fact he has copied the work of dedicated cat breeders in order to fleece people of large amounts of money (based on previous schemes there is no guarantee Lifestyle Pets will be around any longer than his other companies, so people who have paid up-front for cats or franchises may well find themselves out of pocket).
He claims the Ashera is aimed at people who would not otherwise consider cat ownership. He claims Lifestyle Pets' market research proves they would be interested in something large and unusual such as the 25 lb cat that has the size and markings of a small leopard. In other words, the Ashera is simply a marketable living commodity and a fashion accessory sold to people for whom an expensive fashion accessory is disposable when they are bored of it.
According to Brigitte Cowell (Kirembo Cattery, San Francisco) of the Savannah Cat Club in the USA, crossing a serval with any kind of domestic cat gives you a Savannah. It is obvious to her that Brodie is breeding Savannahs and calling them by a different name. Lifestyle Pets are repackaging the Savannah breed (or F2 generation Savannahs), surrounding it with dubious genetic claims and putting a big price tag on it.
Brodie claims his company uses genetic markers to scientifically predict an Ashera kitten's size and markings in adulthood, something breeders can only guess at and something no recognised scientific laboratory has claimed to do. He also says he can cut corners with breeding to servals by using artificial insemination, ensuring the parents don't physically need to meet and the serval sire doesn't have to be raised alongside domestic cats.
Brodie said his company used unspecified “genetic techniques” and artificial insemination to combine components of three breeds to create the Ashera. While it may look similar to a Savannah and has serval genes, he claims it isn't a Savannah. Lorre Smith, author of “The Savannah Cat Book” and Savannah breed chairman of TICA stated that any serval-domestic hybrid is a Savannah and that servals were widely available in the USA. Cynthia King (Kasbah Cattery) said “Anything that comes out of a serval that is hybrid of any kind is basically a Savannah. Period.”
Brigitte Cowell has a degree in microbiology and knows what she is talking about. She has stated that Brodie has "remarkable luck in first locating genes for hypoallergenic qualities in the Allerca cats, then finding markers for genes controlling patterning and size in Asheras." The fact none of this has been published in peer-reviewed journals casts serious doubts on these claims – without evidence (which Brodie claims is proprietary information) it is just advertising puff that gullible people will swallow. Cowell found the claims of artificial insemination "fascinating" because not many people have achieved kittens. "He's doing a lot of firsts, I guess." In fact he's claiming a suspicious number of firsts: hypoallergenic cats, artificial insemination, genetic markers for size and pattern – all of it unsubstantiated. Experienced scientists working with endangered cat species don't claim a high success rates with artificial insemination, yet a non-scientist with a long history of fraud and deception claims a higher success rate. Independent reviewers know which one of those they would sooner believe!
Brodie, though denying it has directly copied Savannah, having first failed to acquire actual Savannahs, and is charging over-the-odds for them based on hype. Meanwhile, he dismissed Savannahs as being a cross between a serval and any old domestic cat – yet he resorted to deception in his attempts to buy proven F1 Savannah breeding stock. Unlike the Savannah, the copycat Ashera is not eligible for registration or exhibition; this ineligibility is one of the factors that cause Ragdoll franchisees to break away from Baker's scheme in the 1970s.
In June 2008 it was confirmed that Asheras were Savannahs. On 17th January 2008, Dutch customs officials at Schiphol Airport confiscated 3 Ashera kittens imported into the Netherlands as the cats might violate the CITES treaty that forbids the sale or trade of protected species and their offspring. One cat had been bought by a Dutch couple for 27,000 euros ($40,000) and the other 2 were in transit via the Netherlands. US cat breeder Chris Shirk identified the 3 seized cats as F1 Savannahs (first generation serval x domestic hybrid) bought from his Pennsylvania-based Cutting Edge Cats cattery for $5,000 - $6,500 and being resold as Asheras for many times that price. LifeStyle Pets/Simon Brodie would not respond to Dutch authorities’ telephone calls or emails about either the seizure or the allegations of reselling F1 Savannahs.
Shirk identified the cats from photos printed in the Dutch press. One of the photos printed in the Dutch media was Shirk’s own online advertising photo (Brodie has previously used serval and Savannah images on his website). Shirk had sold 3 young F1 male Savannahs to Martin Stucki of Oklahoma-based A1 Savannahs, shipping them by air on 11th January 2008. Stucki also refused to answer questions about whom he sold the 3 F1 Savannahs to, but said the buyer did not identify themselves as Brodie (Brodie has previously used other names in when trying to buy Savannah cats). However, he confirmed that Brodie had contacted him in 2007 about purchasing a number of Savannahs. Shirk filed a claim with Dutch authorities to reclaim the cats and provided their pedigree documentation, photos to prove their lineage (and highlight the fraud) and blood samples from the parents of the 3 cats he identified as bred by him. Chicago-based Savannah breeder Cynthia King, also identified photos as being photos of one of Shirk's Savannah cats.
US Fish and Wildlife supervised the taking of blood samples from Shirk's cats. These went directly from the vet surgery to the Dutch Netherlands government. The forensics labs confirmed the DNA tests on the seized "Ashera" kittens showed all 3 to be F1 Savannahs bred by Shirk from a serval and Egyptian Mauowned by Shirk. The cats exported as "Asheras" by Brodie's Lifestyle Pets were Savannahs sold on to unsuspecting buyers for a huge profit. The results were made public in June 2008. In that month, Brodie assumed the name Simon Carradan, moved to Big Sky, Montana and set up a luxury ski business.