Friday, January 01, 1999

1999 Big Cat Attacks

NBC News Transcripts

September 7, 1999, Tuesday


JANE PAULEY: Good evening. America is a nation of animal lovers, with our cats and dogs, and birds and fish and tigers. That's right, tigers. According to one estimate, there are 7,000 privately owned tigers in the United States. That's more than exist free in the wild. And tigers aren't the only exotic animals people like to keep as pets. Ever wonder where all these animals come from? And you must have wondered if it's safe. Wait till you see what our hidden cameras found, as Dennis Murphy takes us deep into the world of exotic animals.

Miss LAUREN VILLAFANA: Thank you, daddy.

Mr. BOBBY HRANICKY: Anything for my little girl. Miss VILLAFANA: This is so cute.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) How cool was it for Lauren Villafana to be raising her very own tiger cubs?

(Lauren with her tiger cub on Christmas morning)

KELLY: They slept together, played together, everything together. Everything.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Lauren was an only child. And her mom, Kelly, and stepdad, Bobby Hranicky, wanted only the best for their 10 year old. Watching magnificent exotic cats grow up before their eyes was both thrilling and educational.

(Home video of Lauren opening gifts on Christmas morning; photos of tigers)

KELLY: They were an animal that was going extinct, and we could make a difference. We could save them.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Then one June day, Lauren entered the backyard cage as her stepdad was brushing down the nearly adult tigers, Sheena and Toulouse.

(Tigers in cage)

KELLY: (Voiceover) The male tiger hit her with his front paws from behind.

(Tiger in cage)

MURPHY: (Voiceover) The 250-pound animal pounced on the girl, broke her neck and bit her repeatedly in the throat. Lauren Villafana was dead. Her stepdad is facing criminal charges of reckless injury to a child. And that was just one of several incidents involving wild animals. Big cats confiscated in Mississippi and their owners charged with neglect. In Houston, two tigers shot after they escaped from a backyard pen and terrified the neighborhood. And this little girl, mauled after having her picture taken with a tiger at a county fair. It seems as though the jungle has come to the subdivision, and woe to the naive who confuse the cuddly with the carnivorous.

(Tiger; photo of Lauren Villafana; Bobby Hranicky; several tigers in crowded cage; dead tiger on three-wheller; young girl with tiger; monkey and tiger)

Mr. ALAN GREEN: It's a real sort of health threat that's under the radar screen.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Alan Green is a journalist at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, a well-respected nonprofit group known for its award-winning investigations. He's spent four years investigating the trade in exotic animals. His book, "Animal Underworld," documents the sometimes shady trafficking in rare creatures that can have deadly consequences for both animals and people. Take tigers, an endangered species--about 250 of them are on exhibit at zoos across the country. But there may also be one or two more convenient to you, like over the back fence.

(Alan Green; book cover; several exotic animals; tiger walking outdoors; tiger in back yard)

Mr. GREEN: My best estimates--maybe six to 7,000 tigers in private hands.

MURPHY: Backyard tigers? Not in zoo collections?

Mr. GREEN: Privately held by individuals. That's right.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Green's desk is piled high with research documents that tell a troubling story of exotic animals being passed on like batons in a relay race. From cute to ferocious, all manner of animals are passed from zoos, research centers and safari parks to a host of breeders and brokers.

(Green working at computer; wild animals; monkey, tigers, leopards)

Unidentified Announcer: Sold at $ 1800.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Some end up in backyard pens or even mounted over the fireplace. It's a marketplace, feeding on an insatiable appetite for the sleek of coat and sharp of tooth. It's not even an underground or, in most cases, an illegal trade. Pet tigers are the descendants of surplus zoo animals from years ago, and they have been crossbred in American backyards to the point where there are simply too many of them now to regulate their sale. Tiger shopping is as easy as picking up a pet-trade classified or clicking on the Internet. All it took was one phone call for a DATELINE producer to see these six tiger cubs for sale at a roadside zoo in south Texas.

(Lion playing with man in yard; panther in cage; tiger cubs)

Unidentified Woman #1: How much does she want for these?

Unidentified Woman #2: A thousand.

Woman #1: A thousand a piece.

Woman #2: Uh-hmm.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) No one asked if we knew the first thing about big cats.

(Women with tiger cubs)

Woman #2: If you raise this cat with a lot of love and care, you will be able to work with it, go in and pet it, I mean, there is so much you can do with them.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Not shopping for a tiger? Well, how about a baby cougar, separated from its mother at three weeks? Four hundred bucks.

(Woman with baby cougar)

Woman #2: I think you'll call me back a year from now and say it was the best thing you ever did. I know you will.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But when the thrill is gone and the exotic kitty becomes a scary, too expensive, 400-pound snarling animal, it may get dumped on a shelter. Houston's SPCA has taken in 13 unwanted big cats in the last year, and it makes director Patti Mercer sick.

(Young tigers; adult tigers in cage; Patti Mercer with cougar in cage)

Ms. PATTI MERCER: These cats are time bombs. These animals are a disaster waiting to happen in the hands of private owners.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Now, keep in mind there's nothing illegal here. The exotic animal market is about supply and demand.

(Woman with baby tiger)

Unidentified Man: I get kisses. No, Cody.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And right now, the marketplace wants these.

(Monkey in home)

Mr. GREEN: Monkeys are huge in the pet trade. And it's baby monkeys that are huge, that's the big secret.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But monkeys aren't tigers, right? What could the risk be? Well, take a look.


Ms. ELAINA WERNS: (Feeding monkey its bottle) Take your bah-bah.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Elaina Werns of Mesa, Arizona, has four monkeys, a kind called, macaques. They live, eat, sleep, even bathe with her and her husband.

(Werns with monkeys at home)

Ms. WERNS: It's like taking care of a 2-year-old. They're--they get into things just like a child would, but all the hugs and kisses and the things that they do to make up for it makes it all worthwhile.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Not to the next-door neighbor, Diane Heinz, who can look across her pool and see the warning signs over Elaina's monkey cages. Sometimes, she says, the monkeys make cross-property-line forays.

(Diane Heinz; swimming pool; yard sign indicating danger of monkeys; monkey climbing on yard fence)

Ms. DIANE HEINZ: We've been held hostage in our hot tub. We've had them jump at our backs when we've been cleaning the pool. We've had them in our front yard. We've had them all over our yard.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Elaina believes her macaques are harmless.

(Werns with her monkey)

Ms. WERNS: (Monkey appearing upset while being held) That's called a tantrum. He's saying, 'I don't want to get down.' It's in no way a sign of aggression. He was just telling me, 'I don't want to get down,' just like a little kid saying, 'No way. No way, mom.'

MURPHY: Your best friend buys a monkey. She has kids. What do you tell her?

Ms. STEPHANIE OSSTROWSKI: Tell her, 'You're nuts. You just did a dumb thing.'

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Dr. Stephanie Osstrowski is a senior staff vet and epidemiologist with the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Because monkeys carry so many diseases that they can pass on to humans, she finds the popularity of monkeys in general, and macaques in particular, worrisome.

(Dr. Osstrowski; CDC sign; monkeys outdoors; monkeys in cage)

MURPHY: How likely is it that this adult macaque will bite you, scratch you, spit on you?

Dr. OSSTROWSKI: It's a dead certainty.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And with macaques, you could be exposed to a deadly virus called herpes B. Ninety percent of all adult macaques are carriers.

(Macaques outdoors)

MURPHY: How sick can it make us?

Dr. OSSTROWSKI: It can kill you.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Now, Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, one of the ritziest shopping boulevards in the world, may be the last place you'd expect to brush up against a fatal monkey disease, but that's what happened to the Brewster family.

(Palm Beach street; Brewster family)

Ms. DEBRA BREWSTER: It was so cute. He lured you to him, the monkey itself did.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) A man walking down Worth Avenue was carrying this pet monkey, a macaque named Ringo, who was a few months old at the time. Debra Brewster's 4-year-old daughter, Catie, was enthralled with the monkey.

(Worth Avenue in Palm Beach; Ringo the macaque; Catie Brewster)

Ms. BREWSTER: Probably ten minutes after he left, I noticed a red mark on her arm, and I asked her what it was. She told me the monkey bit her. I was in disbelief.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) And soon in shock, as a doctor explained how quickly herpes B disease can progress from flu symptoms to a gruesome death of convulsions, nerve and brain damage. Fortunately, Ringo the macaque tested negative for herpes B. Catie would be all right.

(Catie Brewster; Ringo in cage; Catie Brewster)

Ms. BREWSTER: She came through unscathed, thank God. I feel like we dodged a bullet.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) But a young researcher at the Yerkes Primate Center wasn't so lucky. A macaque didn't even bite her. Some of its body fluids splashed in her eye. Initially, it was not diagnosed as the B virus. When it was, treatment could not save her. Her death emphasized the need for researchers to wear protective gear when handling macaques. There have been 40 reported cases of monkey-caused herpes B infections, all of them in research settings. Of the 40 diagnosed, experts say 30 people have died.

(Yerkes Primate Research Center; monkeys in yard; researchers covered in protective gear; monkeys in yard running and playing)

MURPHY: Should people be scared?

Dr. OSSTROWSKI: People should be concerned. The fact that you live in New York City, or Palm Beach, or even out in the Arizona desert, doesn't prevent you from having an unexpected encounter with a monkey.

MURPHY: So you've been killed by your cute, pet monkey?

Dr. OSSTROWSKI: It could happen.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Not all monkeys are lethal, by any stretch. But once past the cute, cuddly baby stage, experts say they will display their wild behavior and bite, scratch or claw you and possibly infect you with a host of diseases ranging from measles to TB to herpes B. Can you recognize a macaque when you see one? How about a mangabey? They can carry a monkey virus called SIV. One strain of that is a close relative of HIV 2, which can cause AIDS in humans. Scientists speculate that this monkey virus has infected at least six people with unknown long-term effects. So you might be surprised at what reporter Alan Green found. Guess who's helping to fuel the appetite for the pet monkey market? Universities and research centers.

(Monkey at home with young child; monkey in cage; macaque and mangabey in cages; crowed street; Alan Green; university grounds)

MURPHY: Monkeys are going out the back door of universities the way they are at the zoo?

Mr. GREEN: Absolutely, and the dealers are reselling them, or they're breeding them, and the offspring are going out into that private pet trade.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) A to B to C. Green says he found evidence of a lab animal to dealer to domestic pet trade transfer when he looked at a transaction at a primate lab affiliated with Tulane University. Tulane told us that when it gave away rare mangabey monkeys five years ago, it followed the law and thought it was giving the animals to zoos. It later told us it should have done a better job of checking them out. Green found that the monkeys wound up going from dealer to dealer with each transaction becoming a little more murky, a little more distanced from the university lab. And Green says other well-known universities have been involved in similar transactions.

(Dennis Murphy with Alan Green in office; Tulane University; mangabey monkeys; auction announcer; university grounds)

Mr. GREEN: All of a sudden, for the first time ever, we see mangabeys showing up in the private pet trade.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Sure enough, we found ads for mangabeys in the pet trade papers, and they were selling for several thousand dollars. And last month a county fair in Tennessee, the man who placed the ads was displaying one of his mangabeys. He said they were no longer for sale. While perhaps legal, says Green, these kinds of transactions by zoos, universities and research labs are nonetheless disreputable, unethical and maybe unsafe.

(Classified ads listing mangabey monkeys; county fair; man with mangabey; mangabey in cage)

Mr. GREEN: They're sending them out to a series of dealers, breeders, who are moving them along through a pipeline, and they're disappearing.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Disappearing, exotic and endangered animals of all kinds, into backyards, to sometimes gruesome cages, to sometimes unhappy endings for both animals and misguided owners.

(Tigers; lions; monkeys; dead tiger in cage)

Mr. GREEN: I think what's going on is, in many cases, highly immoral because we've entrusted these animals to people who we have every reason to believe have their best interests at heart.

MURPHY: (Voiceover) Green thinks zoos and research centers should both take a good hard look at what they're really doing when they sometimes open their back doors to animal brokers with a wink and a nod toward the rules.

(Zoo depicting several different animals)

MURPHY: And we think that the animals are being used for noble purposes in the labs and admired in the zoos?

Mr. GREEN: That's right. And so, not only are they a threat to humans in some cases, but the animals themselves often lead miserable lives.

PAULEY: If you'd like to learn more about the trafficking in exotic animals or read an excerpt from Alan Green's new book, visit our Web site at

Austin American-Statesman
June 8, 1999, Tuesday
Yorktown girl, 10, dies after mauling by pet tiger

YORKTOWN -- A 10-year-old girl has died after being mauled by one of her stepfather's pet tigers, police said.

Lorin Casey Villafana was dead on arrival at a hospital Sunday night, authorities said. Yorktown Police Chief Guy Nobles said the girl and her stepfather, Bobby Hranicky , entered a large concrete and steel bar cage holding two tigers.

"Her father was brushing the female tiger, and all of a sudden the male tiger jumped on the girl and dragged her through the cage," Nobles said. "The stepfather finally got the tiger to let her go, and he picked her up and got her out."

The girl suffered head and neck injuries in the attack, which was being investigated Monday by the De Witt County sheriff's department and the justice of the peace, the chief said.

Hranicky told authorities that the male tiger attacked Lorin after she touched the female tiger. No one else was injured.

Authorities declined to say whether they were considering charges against Hranicky. He often carried the tigers around to exotic-animal shows , Nobles said.

"Some of the people were concerned about tigers being in the city limits," Nobles said. "But he got his permits that said he could keep them, and he complied with all the requirements. They were in a big steel cage where they couldn't get out."

Relatives said the girl had been in the cage with the tigers before.

San Antonio Express-News
June 8, 1999, Tuesday
Tiger kills its owner's stepdaughter

Ralph Winingham; Express-News Staff Writer

A tiger that had been raised as a pet in the home of a Yorktown man turned killer Sunday when the big cat attacked the man's 10-year-old stepdaughter without warning.

The male tiger clamped his jaws around the girl's head and pulled her across his cage before the man could get her free.

The victim was identified by Justice of the Peace James Dawson as Lorin Casey Villafana.(***SEE CORRECTION***) Her stepfather is Bobby Hranicky, whose age wasn't available. "This is still an ongoing investigation, and I have not made a ruling" on the death, Dawson said, referring all questions to law enforcement authorities in DeWitt County.

The girl was in the cage helping Hranicky brush the coats of the male and female tigers he has maintained as pets since they were cubs, Yorktown Police Chief Guy Nobles said.

Nobles said his officer received a call at 8:04 p.m. Sunday about the attack.

"The stepfather was brushing the female when the male grabbed the girl by the head and dragged her into the other compartment (of the cage)," the chief said.

The walk-in cage is designed to allow Hranicky to separate the two tigers and had been approved by city, state and federal regulators, Nobles said.

Hranicky was able to pull the girl away from the tiger. She was rushed to Cuero Community Hospital, where she was declared dead at 9:05 p.m., the chief said.

"I would guess that the male tiger weighs over 200 pounds," he said. "They've had no problems out there before and went into the cage all the time.

"The tigers were treated like family pets," Nobles said, adding the animals had been exhibited in cities across the state.

Until the investigation into the incident is completed, the tigers will be locked in their cage under the control of the Police Department, he said.

"The owner will have to get our permission to see them," he added.

Nobles said the girl had been living in the home with her stepfather for about three years. Hranicky was born and raised in Yorktown.

Yorktown is a town of about 2,300 people in rural DeWitt County, southeast of San Antonio.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
San Jose Mercury News
February 11, 1999, Thursday
Growing numer of animals are escaping from zoos, injuring or killing people

By Linda Goldston

SAN JOSE, Calif. _ In Michigan in 1995, seven lions and tigers toppled onto the freeway after the 6-by-12-foot trailer they were being carried in came unhitched and rolled over on the median of Interstate Highway 96 near Novi. A lioness' skull was fractured, and one 225-pound Bengal tiger bolted across the westbound lanes, leading police on a four-hour hunt.

In Texas in 1997, a 250-pound Sumatran tiger escaped from the Wild Animal Orphanage just outside the San Antonio city limits and was seen running down a street by joggers who sought safety inside a pickup truck.

In North Dakota in 1998, a 5-year-old boy was clawed by a Bengal tiger in Minot after he and his family posed for a photo with the tiger at an exhibit at the North Dakota State Fair. The boy had to undergo plastic surgery. So many exotic animals, some of which are surplus from accredited zoos or their offspring, are now in private hands in the United States that such events are no longer rare.

Often housed in makeshift pens and cages, which makes escape more likely, they pose a growing threat to their naive owners and surrounding communities.

The ready availability of such animals as lions, tigers and bears is at the forefront of the danger.

"Lions and tigers and most of these big cats breed like flies in captivity," said Alan Shoemaker, curator of mammals at the Riverbanks Zoological Park and Gardens in Columbia, S.C., and deputy chair of the International Cat Specialists Group. "Anybody can do it, so there's a lot of puppy-mill-type lions and tigers out there."

And no shortage of buyers to take them home.

"It is alarming to think there are thousands if not tens of thousands of exotic animals in private hands with very little oversight," said Ron Kagan, director of the Detroit Zoo, one of the few major zoos that will still accept confiscated animals if room for them at the zoo is available.

Disease is a growing threat.

So many monkeys _ often carriers of dangerous viruses that can be transmitted to humans _ have been obtained from zoos and sold into the pet trade that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked the American Zoo and Aquarium Association to remind its members that "non-human primates imported after 10 October 1975 and their progeny into perpetuity can only be sold, resold or distributed for scientific, educational or exhibition purposes," according to a Feb. 1, 1996, AZA memo to member zoos stamped "confidential."

Under that federal regulation, "the maintenance of non-human primates as pets, hobby or an avocation with occasional display to the general public is not a permissible use."

In the memo to accredited zoo directors, AZA Deputy Director Kris Vehrs stated that "CDC representatives are alleging that significant numbers of non-human primates, which are presently in private hands, have come from AZA institutions after 10 October 1975."

The memo ended with a statement from Vehrs: "I know that none of us wishes to see this issue go public."

Stephanie Ostrowski, senior staff veterinary epidemiologist in the Division of Quarantine at the CDC, was concerned enough that she reviewed 32,348 individual animal records from accredited zoos.

Her study, released with little fanfare at the 1997 annual conference of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, represented the first effort to review regulatory compliance by AZA zoos with the CDC regulations on primates. For the study, Ostrowski and veterinarian Natalie Keeler of Michigan analyzed records in studbooks _ which are used to track the genetic history of animals for breeding recommendations _ for 59 primate species.

Given claims by AZA zoo officials that its members place animals in responsible hands, the findings were startling: Nearly one-third of all primates had been transferred from accredited institutions to dealers or to private individuals.

"A total of 2,730 (32 percent) of 8,596 NHPs (non-human primates) in the current (living) population, as listed in the most current studbook for each species as of 1995, were permanently lost to species survival plans through transfers from accredited institutions to dealers or to private individuals," according to the abstract of the study.

Moreover, the abstract states, the percentage of non-human primates that fell off the tracking radar varied by species from 0 percent to 98 percent and "for several species, more animals were lost to follow-up than were retained in AZA institution populations. During the 20-year period of the study, 59 percent (99 of 167) of AZA- accredited institutions listed in the 1995 AZA directory completed at least one transfer event in which a (primate) was lost to follow-up."

However, "animals retained in zoo populations moved almost exclusively from accredited zoo to accredited zoo, rather than through dealers."

According to a San Jose Mercury News newspaper analysis of the International Species Information System, a computerized animal-transaction database used by AZA- accredited zoos and others, these zoos sent out more than 700 primates to dealers, auctions, private zoos or to the general public from the beginning of 1992 to mid- 1998.

From 1990 to 1992, 28 people reported to the CDC they had been bitten by macaque monkeys. Twenty-four more people reported macaque bites between 1993 and 1997, according to the January-March issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the CDC.

The article _ called "B-virus from Pet Macaque Monkeys: An Emerging Threat in the United States?" _ reported, however, that "owners of pet macaques are often reluctant to report bite injuries from their pets, even to their medical care providers."

All of the reported bites involved macaque pet owners, or neighbors or friends of owners.

Of greater concern to the CDC and state public health officials is the potential for infection from disease-carrying primates through close contact.

About 90 percent of all macaque monkeys, for instance, are infected with B-virus or Simian B, a herpes virus that is harmless to the monkeys but often fatal in humans. Transmission of the virus to humans is rare, but the potential for death is too great to ignore, according to the CDC and some state officials.

Not only do people bring them into their homes, according to a study by the CDC, some of the people who admitted being bitten reported out of the ordinary contact. In one case, a monkey "kissed on lips, ate off owner's plate and shared bed." In another, the monkey was "diapered, shared chewed gum" and one pet macaque was "acquired as a 'child substitute"' and "full-time babysitters were hired."

AZA officials said they knew of no primates that had gone from accredited zoos into the pet trade, which is prohibited by AZA regulations.

But those regulations did not stop the 1995 donation by the Greater Baton Rouge Zoo of three chimpanzees infected with hepatitis B to animal dealer Len Bohn. Officials of the AZA-accredited zoo had known the primates were infected since 1990, according to copies of lab tests for the chimps.

Bohn did not tell the dealers who bought the chimps from him that they were infected, said Sherry Roche of Illinois, who paid $ 10,000 for a pair of the animals. One of the chimps died last year.

"They put anybody who came into contact with these animals at risk," said Roche.

Zoo officials in Baton Rouge did not deny the transaction. And the zoo remains in good standing with the AZA.

"The three chimpanzees were initially sent as a loan so Greater Baton Rouge officials could make sure the chimps acclimated well to their new home," Baton Rouge Zoo Director Phil Frost said in a letter to the Mercury News. "After one month it was deemed that the transfer was successful and the animals were then donated to Bohn's Ark. Had the transfer not been successful, the loan would have been recalled."

Frost, who was not director at the time the chimps were donated to Bohn, said in the same letter that in October 1995, 'the zoo further strengthened its (animal) disposition policy to state that 'any and all primates shall only be disposed of to other AZA-accredited institutions."'

No official statistics are available, but anecdotal evidence points to an increase in attacks, injuries and sometimes deaths by exotic pets, said Ron DeHaven, deputy administrator for animal care at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

"We deal on a regular basis with individuals who have been attacked by exotic wild animals, so clearly there's a problem," DeHaven said.

Some states and localities have moved to crack down on exotic animal ownership in the wake of escapes or attacks, but not always successfully:

_Seventy-four-year-old Bonnie Wampler was pulling weeds in her Portland, Ore., yard in September 1997 when she spotted a loose tiger across her back fence.

The 9-month-old Siberian tiger, the pet of a neighborhood man, also scared a nearby couple so badly that they stopped letting their children, ages 3 and 5, play outside. Portland banned dangerous pets in the city limits, and the tiger's owner moved out of state _ with his big pet.

_On March 12, 1998, near Caldwell, Texas, a 13-year-old boy was attacked by a 300- pound lion and a seven-foot tiger near Caldwell that were pets of his grandfather. The boy's father, Jody Grubbs Jr., walked into the home and found his son, Michael, with one of the big cats biting his neck and the other chewing on one of his feet, said David Quinn, legislative aide to state Sen. Mike Moncrief.

Three weeks later, a 2-year-old boy was mauled in an apartment in Dallas by one of two pet bobcats. And just five weeks after that, on May 8, a Lubbock man was seriously injured inside the cage of one of his pet tigers.

Moncrief, a Democrat representing Fort Worth, tried unsuccessfully to have a bill banning such pets adopted by the Legislature about the same time the incidents occurred.

_In Michigan, where lions and tigers are popular "watch cats" for drug dealers in Detroit, the Michigan Humane Society has been called upon to pick up so many confiscated exotic animals, many of them carnivores, that it pushed a bill last year to ban ownership of animals deemed dangerous to humans. The bill was passed by Michigan's representatives but must still win approval in the state Senate.

A major problem in removing dangerous animals from private situations is finding a suitable place for them. Most exotic-animal sanctuaries that can handle big cats say they are full, and most accredited zoos won't take animals with unknown lineage.

One agency that accepts dangerous animals, the Michigan Humane Society, had one African lion in its shelter in the 1980s.

"Since 1991, we've had 20 big cats _ tigers, lions, cougars, servals and caracals," said Michele Mitchell, spokeswoman for the humane society. "A policeman spotted (one tiger) in the back seat of a car and pulled the guy over."

California banned the ownership of dangerous wild animals as pets in 1933, but did not enforce it until 1987.

But despite the state ban, there were no laws specifically prohibiting exotic animals from temporarily being in neighborhoods.

A few counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Sonoma and Mendocino, have adopted such ordinances.

In Marin County, it only took a tiger visiting a neighborhood _ exclusive Kent Woodlands in Kentfield _ for supervisors to pass an emergency ordinance banning dangerous animals in residential areas.

The 70-pound Bengal tiger belonged to a Colorado man who was visiting a friend. He prompted complaints when he tied the tiger in his friend's front yard.

"Having a dog in your yard is one thing," said Marin Supervisor Hal Brown, who immediately proposed the ordinance after receiving several complaints. "Having a dangerous tiger is totally inappropriate."