A local animal group will not attend the fair and speak out about cat welfare and live animal shows as it planned.

Jesse Fenwick, Jen’s Kitty Rehab board member, told the Times Record the organization is not welcome at the fair if it speaks on cats other than domesticated felines.

“Jen’s Kitty Rehab was excited to get a booth at the fair with the intention to kindly educate (people about) animal welfare for both domestic and large cats,” organization founder Jennifer Grayston says in a statement. “Thursday evening, we were told that we cannot bring anything tiger related. Jesse and I decided to respectfully decline the booth.”

The organization planned to hand out informational material and provide promotional items for purchase to promote animal welfare. It did not intend to single out fair act Nerger’s Tiger Show, which is listed as a midway act for the fair. It also planned to have an adoption event for domesticated cats.

“They said we could still come if we wanted, but we weren’t allowed to say anything about tigers at all or have any literature other than house cat literature,” Fenwick wrote in a text message on Friday. “We also would have had to delete any references to tigers on our social media.”

Fenwick and Grayston both said the organization didn’t want to participate and potentially be seen as “support of the tiger act.”

“Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair officials spoke with Jen’s Kitty Rehab (Thursday),” the fair says in a statement. “Both parties reached an agreement regarding the use of their display space. After that call, Jen’s Kitty Rehab made the decision to not participate in the Fair Expo Center.”

Nerger’s Tiger Show will be at the Arkansas-Oklahoma State Fair and has been met with criticism from members of the Fort Smith community and animal advocacy groups for what some say is a long history of animal welfare violations.

The Times Record received copies of United States Department of Agriculture reports about alleged violations regarding the handling and space requirements for large animals. It was not able to independently verify that the documents were from the USDA, because representatives are prohibited from doing so via email. A comparison of the documents received and official copies of reports provided directly by the USDA, which take four to six weeks to process, are the only way to ensure their accuracy.

The fair began Friday and will run until Sept. 28.