Tuesday, December 31, 2002

1995 Big Cat Attacks Part 2

And so the trade thrives. It is sometimes easier to buy poisonous reptiles, primates and wild cats than it is to buy some pedigreed dogs or cats. There are Web sites that list exotic-animal associations, chat groups and forthcoming wildlife auctions in the United States and Canada. In last November's issue of Animal Finders Guide, an American trade magazine, there were advertisements offering silver foxes for $150 each, tiger cubs and coyote pups for $450 each, a pair of Himalayan bears were listed at $3,750 each and giant zebras were going for $6, 750.

Even protected animals are easy to acquire. When a Maclean's reporter, posing as a buyer, asked a Newfoundland-based dealer over the Internet last month about purchasing a Canadian lynx, the dealer claimed he had access to 190 suppliers, 23 of them in Canada, and as many as 25,000 cats. He was willing to sell one for as little as $300, even though the trade in wild Canadian lynx is regulated under CITES. Collectors are not surprised. Matthew Todd Paproski, a film producer in Maple Ridge who keeps cougars for use in his TV work, doubts that legislation can regulate the pet trade. "It will just create a black market," Paproski says. "The animals will continue to be sold."

Zoos have often been suppliers to the trade. They turn over older animals, or excess animals from breeding programs, to brokers who then sell to stores, auctions and even hunting ranches in Canada and the United States. As part of being accredited by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, larger zoos are not supposed to sell to dealers who are known suppliers of the pet trade. Yet animals from esteemed operations still end up in the pet trade. "None of this is illegal, which makes it pretty damn hard to control," says Calvin White, chief executive officer of the Toronto Zoo, which has sold thousands of mammals, birds and reptiles. "We can do all the things we can to control where our animals go, but that's a small piece of the whole puzzle."

CAZA represents only 23 zoos. There are about 170 quasi-zoo operations in Canada that are not accredited by CAZA. In an investigation last year of nine Alberta and Saskatchewan zoos by Zoocheck Canada Inc., a nonprofit organization that monitors captive wildlife, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, all nine housed some animals in substandard conditions. And Lynn Gustafson, owner of GuZoo Animal Farm in Three Hills, Alta., was convicted of illegally possessing Sika deer and cruelty to an animal. The cruelty conviction resulted in a $300 fine and 30 days in jail, yet Gustafson was not stripped of his provincial zoo permit and continues to operate.

Some aspects of the trade are completely unregulated. There are no federal standards governing breeders, and not surprisingly, there is confusion over what is and isn't legal. One Saskatchewan breeder, Russell Hanson, who has raised Canadian and Eurasian lynx, recently decided to get out of the business. Last year, Hanson was falsely charged by Alberta wildlife officials with exporting Canadian lynx into Alberta without permits, even though no law required him to have them. The charges were dropped, but not before Hanson's reputation was sullied and he had been made a target of militant animal-rights activists. At one point last year, RCMP officers warned him not to open mail from New York City because a group there was threatening to send letter bombs to Canadian breeders.

The poster animal for the worst aspects of the pet trade could be Oso, a grizzly bear. Oso was captured as a cub in the wild after a hunter killed his mother. His first home in captivity was a travelling circus, where, like most performing bears, he was declawed and had his front teeth removed. When he outgrew his cubby cuteness, he was sold to a man in Sudbury, Ont., and when the man moved away, Oso was left behind, locked in a cage with no food or water.

Barely alive when he was discovered more than three weeks later, Oso was taken in and partially rehabilitated by people in Belleville, Ont., who then sold Oso to a collector. Over time, his weight dropped to 300 lb. from 750, and at one point in 1997, he was nearly sold for his organs. But he was rescued by Bear With Us, a sanctuary near Huntsville, Ont. "No matter what people say, there is no education value to owning wildlife," says Michael McIntosh, founder of Bear With Us. "It's just a fulfilment of someone's ego."

Last summer, Oso died of a heart attack at age 15 -- less than half the usual lifespan of a grizzly. A veterinarian said the premature death was caused by years of abuse, although none of Oso's previous owners were ever charged. But that's how it goes in the wildlife trade. Animals are often sold with little regard for their welfare, or for the safety of the public at large. And without a serious commitment to legislative protection and enforcement in Canada, there is little hope for change.

Exotic Pets For Sale

Some wild animals are as easy to acquire, and occasionally as inexpensive, as common pets such as purebred dogs or cats. But even truly exotic animals, including rare species, are readily available. Maclean's surveyed classified ads, online providers and pet shops and found the following animals available last week:

Wolverine (endangered in some parts of Canada)--$30,000

Green iguana (endangered in some parts of central and South America)- -$49.99

Baby monkeys, marmosets, lemurs and capuchins--$2,500 to $10,000

Galah cockatoo (a parrot imported from Australia)--$3,000


King cobra--$900

Creature feature: Don't forget to put the cat out
Date: 11-28-2000; Publication: The Mirror; Author: Jane Brum

Would you like to trade Tiddles in for a mountain lion or a Bengal tiger? In America, thousands of people keep big cats, spending a fortune on food, vet bills and even swimming pools for their pets. We visit - gingerly - four women who share their homes with these majestic creatures Anna Studer stands waving a squeaky dog toy and a raw turkey drumstick, calling to her cat. Shahzarah dozes in the shade of a spreading oak tree. She is only 14 months old, but she already weighs 400lb - more than two grown men. Her tongue can strip flesh from bone in seconds and her purr is like the throb of helicopter blades. She stretches, sniffs the air and ambles towards her `mom', stopping to rub around Anna's ankles before accepting the mid-morning snack.

`She's a big baby,' Anna smiles, scratching the African lioness's huge caramel haunches. `She met a pizza delivery girl at the front door once and really freaked her out, but she wouldn't hurt a fly.'

Anna and her partner Brian also share their modest home in Tell City, Indiana, with a black Asian leopard called Jumanji, a Siberian tiger called Shere Khan, and Lindsey the cougar. Each of the cats has a bedroom in the house, opening out on to individual enclosures in the garden. Anna still allows Shahzarah the run of the house. `You have to sacrifice a lot to be a big cat owner,' she says. `Furniture doesn't last long, neither do TV remote controls. It's very hard to get babysitters for these animals, so we haven't had a holiday for six years. We're also $4,000 in debt because of vets' fees and the $150- a-week food bills, but they're worth it.'

In most American states, the purchase of a $10 licence allows you to keep exotic animals. It is estimated that there are at least 20, 000 big cats in private ownership in the US. You can own anything from a bobcat to a polar bear. `Endangered cats caneasily be bought at auctions, through dealers or over the Internet,' Anna explains. `We trained for a year in big cat husbandry, but many people have no idea of their needs. They see a cute little bundle of fluff, not the 50st adult that it becomes.'

Surprisingly, there are very few incidents with big cats. Statistically, you're more likely to be attacked by a pit bull. The cats are all domesticated, taken away from their mothers at a few days old and hand reared so they build a strong bond with their owners. As Anna says, `Why would they want to hurt us?'

Shahzarah sidles up and flops on to her back, legs inelegantly spread. `She wants her belly rubbed,' says Anna, sending Brian to fetch Shahzarah' s brush. `She gets offended if I don't do this every day.' After ten minutes of grooming, the massive lioness, who hasn't finished growing, makes short work of lunch. Each day, she has seven turkey drumsticks and a tin of Zoopreem, a specially formulated food for large cats, which costs $2 per can and arrives by the truckload. Shards of turkey bone splinter and ricochet across the carpet. She farts with the delicacy of a thunderclap and a meaty, noxious smell pervades the room.

In his bedroom, Shere Khan is grooming his whiskers with his saucer- sized feet. `He's so gentle,' says Anna, kissing his nose, `but he likes to "mark" female visitors by spraying them. That way he knows they're part of his harem!' The floor trembles as45st of tiger bounds outside to chase leaves. Next door, Jumanji reclines on his bunk bed, surrounded by stuffed toys and a litter tray the size of a small beach.

`One cat to watch out for is Slasher,' says Brian, pointing to a small domestic tabby sleeping under the coffee table. `Now that one is wild! '

When she was young, Cheryl Hahn's mother told her to expect something amazing every day. She looks out of her kitchen window towards the white Bengal tiger splashing in its swimming pool a few feet away. `With a husband like Steve, I never know what's coming through my door next,' she says. `First it was a baby bear in his pocket, then we moved on to tigers and a lion.'

The Hahns's south Indianapolis home has immaculately manicured grounds, in which a state-of-the-art enclosure houses Corky the tiger, Scooby the lion, Bubba the bear, and two white Bengals, Blizzard and Sassy. `We bottle- fed them from cubs,' explains Cheryl. `They all lived in the house until they got to a size when the furniture was suffering.'

As Cheryl approaches the enclosure, three-year-old Blizzard, and Sassy, four, greet her with the enthusiasm of overgrown kittens, tails in the air. White tigers are rare - there's only one for every 10,000 ordinary tigers. Their chocolate stripes and ice-blue eyes come with a $10,000 price tag. Cheryl banters with them and they purr and lick her hand with tongues like heavy-grade sandpaper. `There are so few tigers left in the wild' she says, scratching behind Blizzard's ear, `it's nice to feel we're helping preserve them, and we get to enjoy them every day.'

The sleek coats and Colgate-bright teeth of these cats bear witness to the care and expense lavished on them by the Hahns. `Steve won' t tell me how much it cost to build this facility,' laughs Cheryl. `I just know that it would've paid off the house.'

`They're spoilt,' admits Steve proudly. `They eat chicken and a canned food called Nebraska, which is what the zoos use, and have more toys than they know what to do with. Every year a vet cleans their teeth and ears and vaccinates them.'

Cheryl tucks Rocky, a Yorkshire terrier the size of one of Blizzard' s paws, under her arm. `We have very long days and early mornings. It's kinda hard to stay asleep when your lion starts roaring. I think the neighbours have got used to it now.'

Amanda Sorg shakes her head over the state of her stained living-room carpet. `I guess white wasn't the best colour to choose when you've got mountain lions in the house,' she admits. `My life is an endless round of scoop the poop!' There is a faint smell of cat wee as Austin, a four-month-old mountain lion cub, suddenly ambushes her from behind the sofa and latches on to her knee. Like most privately owned exotic cats he was de-clawed at six weeks old, but his teeth are intact and pin-sharp.

Amanda, 20, lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her boyfriend Gary Dutcher. `When I first met Gary, he told me he had cats. Then he showed me his back and I realised he wasn't talking about Persians.' She attempts to interest the cub in a bottle of milk. He knocks her flat with a flying leap and leaves her in a heap of giggles. `We paid $1, 800 for him from a dealer in the Animal Finder's Guide, which advertises just about every kind of animal. He had to be bottle-fed every two hours through the day and night at first.'

Austin unsuccessfully attempts to jump the baby gate designed to keep him out of the kitchen. Outside in a yard, 7m x 15m, Sampson and Alana, adult mountain lions, prowl around a single, large wooden box in the centre for them to climb on. The highway a few feet away drowns out all but the most plaintive of their yowls. `They want company, ' explains Amanda, as she shuts Austin in his room with his cuddly toys and the lights off. Like any kitten, he needs lots of sleep. `We're trying to encourage them to breed, but Sampson doesn't seem to know what to do.' They're aiming to get a federal licence to breed snow leopards. `We'd have to pay $25,000 on the Internet for two snow leopards because they're endangered,' Amanda says. `But they have up to four litters a year, with each kitten selling for around $10, 000, so we could earn $160,000 a year. I'd give up my job as an admin assistant and we'd move to the country.' She clearly loves her cats, but the lure of $160,000 may be an added factor – her ticket out of Fort Wayne and a tedious nine-to-five existence.

With Austin asleep, she baths her two serval cubs (spotted African wild cats), lathering them up with baby shampoo, each one a foamy, hissing ball of fluff. `I spend three hours a day cleaning and feeding the cats,' she says, `and we spend about $400 a month on chicken alone. And these cats are going to be around for 20 years or more. It's a big commitment.'

It's dark in the basement of Cheri Fecker's house, but the green eyes of her pet cougar can be seen glinting in the shadows. Maya peers out from behind a tangle of electric wiring and heating pipes, hissing and sniffing the air.

Six-year-old Maya shares the basement with a bobcat named Ziba, a pool table and a gallery of Harley memorabilia. Cheri is the Indiana State Women's Pool Champion and practises daily under a watchful feline gaze.

`Maya was a surprise birthday gift from my husband,' she says. `She sat in a cage in the garage for three days, I was so scared of her. I couldn't imagine what Dennis was thinking of. He'd found the advert for cougar cubs in a local paper, but I knew nothing about keeping cats. I've just paid $800 for Maya to have root-canal work done because I didn't know she needed dietary supplements, she just got chicken.'

All 4ft and 9st 7lb of Maya slinks across the carpeted floor. In a sudden change of mood, she seizes one of Cheri's slippers and dances skittishly away, her 3ft-long tail sweeping a lamp and an ashtray to the floor. Every few seconds she looks at Cheri to make sure she' s still the centre of attention.

`The most expensive part of owning these animals is their caging and keeping them stimulated,' says Cheri. `I spend a lot on toys and we' re hoping to expand her enclosure. It breaks my heart that she's never been able to break into a full run in her life.'

There are moves afoot in America to pass a bill which would make private ownership of big cats virtually impossible for people like Cheri, and bring the US more into line with our own Dangerous Wild Animals Act, which demands strict screening of potential keepers and accommodation, plus hefty insurance cover in case of injury to others. `There's no way I could afford to take out the insurance this law would demand, ' says Cheri. `I, and most other owners, would have to have our cats killed. It would be carnage.'

Cheri writes the newsletter for the Midwest Exotic Felines Educational Society, an organisation committed to fighting the cause of private owners and their animals. There are now more tigers in captivity in America than there are wild in the rest of the world. However, this glut of big cats in the private market has had the tragic effect of making them more valuable dead than alive. Tigers and lions are bought by dealers for `canned' hunts, where people pay up to pounds 100,000 for the pleasure of shooting them at close quarters, or they are sold in Asia for use in medicines. `We'll do anything to protect these cats,' says Cheri. `I want my grandchildren to know what a tiger looks like, not just to read about them in books.'

2000-2002 Big Cat Attacks

The Associated Press
March 20, 2002
Reno man give 12 days to move exotic cats

A judge has given a Reno man until April 1 to move four Siberian tigers and black leopard out of a temporary shelter in Lemmon Valley.

Peter Renzo pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of keeping the large felines without an exotic animal permit.

Renzo brought the cats to northern Nevada in December after being given three days to remove the animals from their home in Grass Valley, Calif. He first tried keeping them in a Sparks warehouse, but city officials kicked him out for failing to obtain an exotic animal permit.

Renzo also pleaded no contest to that charge.

After moving the cats to Lemmon Valley, Renzo was cited for the same offense, this time under county jurisdiction.

Last week, Washoe County commissioners voted to issue Renzo an exotic animal permit if he built a facility that complied with county regulations.

But commissioners also told him to remove the animals from the county until the building was complete.

During a hearing Tuesday, Renzo's attorney Kevin Karp told Justice of the Peace Harold Albright Karp that he's filed a motion challenging the last provision of the county's order.

Karp asked the judge to give Renzo 30 days to move the cats and allow the courts time to hear his pending motion.

The judge refused.

"It doesn't seem to me you're paying proper attention to things," Albright told Renzo. "The cats have to be removed by April 1, that gives you two weekends. You just got to do it."

Deputy District Attorney Chris Wilson called the animals "inherently dangerous."

He said they pose a significant liability should they escape the stucco building and two outdoor cages where they are being kept.

The tigers weigh 500-700 pounds; the leopard, 75 pounds.

Wilson said area residents are also concerned about the cats being kept within a few blocks of a school zone.

"The idea of a 6-year-old being mauled ... is why we're here, that's why the codes are here," Wilson said.

Zoo keeper mauled to death 'after defecating on tiger'

A young Chinese tiger keeper has been mauled to death after apparently trying to defecate on one of his big cats.
The 19-year-old appears to have climbed the railings of the Bengal tiger cage and pulled his trousers down.
Evidence at the scene of the death at the Jinan animal park included toilet paper, excrement and a trouser belt.
Zoo officials think Xu Xiaodong either slipped into the cage or was pulled in by one of the four angry tigers.
According to the South China Morning Post, the man told a co-worker he needed to go to the toilet but police were called when he failed to return.
They found his body lying on the ground surrounded by tigers. The teenager had reportedly been bitten in the neck and was covered in blood.

Police believe Xu climbed the wall of a partially constructed building used to raise the tigers to relieve himself. They said the smell probably caused the tigers to pounce. Visitor attacked by jaguar after climbing zoo fence to get photo

A visitor has been bitten by a jaguar after climbing into its zoo enclosure so she could get a better picture.
The 20-year-old jumped a metre-high fence at Antwerp Zoo, then climbed over a wall with cacti on top.
Other visitors shouted at her to get back, but she continued and slipped into a moat surrounding the big cats.
One jaguar struck as she pulled herself to her feet against a fence, biting her on the hand and wrist.
Gazet van Antwerpen reports the woman from Bergen started to scream and the animal let go. She was rescued by keepers and is being treated in hospital.
Zoo manager Peter Van den Eijnde said: "I don't know what that woman was up to. You can't expect to be a house kitten sitting at the other side of the fence.
"Even our own workers don't want to get very near if they don't need to. I think she was lucky she started to scream. That probably scared the jaguar so much he loosened his prey."

Story filed: 13:52 Monday 29th July 2002 American tourist injured after petting lions

An American woman is recovering after being attacked by three young lions after she attempted to pet them at a game lodge in South Africa.
Kimberly Thomen, a tourist from Sugarland, Texas, is in stable condition after the attack at the Leshoka Thabang Game Lodge.
The 34-year-old, had started petting one of the lions from behind an enclosure when it began clawing at her.
She then screamed and two other lions lunged towards her, injuring her left arm and shoulder.
It was not immediately clear if the other two lions were also in the enclosure during the attack. Tour guides pulled the lions off of her.
The tourists at the game lodge were apparently told by the managers that the lions were placid, the report said.
The management said they would be investigating the incident.
Meanwhile, Kimberly Thomen said she was in no rush to see any more lions during her visit.
"I don't want to see a lion anytime soon," she told the South African Broadcasting Corporation from her hospital bed.

Story filed: 16:59 Saturday 8th June 2002 Girl mauled by lion tied up outside shop

A three-year-old girl is recovering after being mauled by a lioness tied up outside a shop in Romania.
The store owner in Constanta says he was left to look after the nine-month-old animal temporarily for a friend.
He has been fined for not preventing the attack and the animal's owner is being investigated by police for assault.
Carmen Ghenciu was walking with her mother when she noticed the lion and tried to play with it. The lioness turned on her and she suffered cuts to her chest, belly and buttocks which needed hospital treatment.
She was only saved from serious injury by passing vet's assistant Iorgu Petrica, who fought off the lion while the girl was rescued by another man.
Mr Petrica said the child was lucky the lion didn't grab her by the throat, as the predator does to its prey in the wild.
Major Constantin Dincu, of Constanta police, says the owner, a Russian man, is being investigated for physical assault and the shop owner was fined the equivalent of £450.
Ownership of dangerous animals by private citizens is not forbidden by Romanian law, but there are restrictions on where they can be kept.
Photographers in Constanta, a resort town on the Black Sea coast, regularly use lions, monkeys or camels to attract clients.

Story filed: 14:52 Wednesday 15th May 2002 25-stone lion bites off keeper's arm

A zookeeper in Florida has had her right arm bitten off while feeding a 12-year-old male lion.
Max, who weighs 25 stone, bit the woman's arm off at Busch Gardens in Tampa.
He attacked the keeper through a bar-style fence while she was giving her family a behind-the-scenes tour of the theme park.
The unnamed woman was flown with the severed limb to Tampa General Hospital by helicopter.
She is understood to be in a serious condition.

Story filed: 05:14 Monday 13th May 2002 Fleeing 'robber' mauled to death by tigers

A suspected robber has been killed by tigers while trying to escape through a South African safari park.
The man and two others allegedly threatened kiosk staff at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in Kromdraai.
Police say he was chased by a member of staff and ended up climbing over a fence into the tiger enclosure.
Vets had to tranquillise the tigers so police could recover his body, the IOL website reports.
Superintendent Melica Bezuidenhout said the three men had arrived at the nature reserve pretending to be tourists.
The two surviving suspects were arrested.

Story filed: 14:48 Sunday 10th March 2002 Big cats kill zoo keeper

Three jaguars have attacked and killed a Vienna zookeeper after she entered a cage.
With zoo visitors looking on, the 21-year-old keeper was killed instantly when a black jaguar pounced on her, biting her in the neck.
Afraid that the large cats would escape from the cage, many of the visitors standing nearby ran away from the scene, screaming.
The director of the Austrian capital's Schoenbrunn zoo, Helmut Pechlaner, was injured by the jaguars after rushing to the enclosure to help the victim.
Pechlaner, 55, was taken by helicopter to a local hospital where doctors operated on his left hand.
Officials at the zoo said they did not yet know how the accident occurred, but suspected that the three jaguars had burst into the cage through a hatch which had not been locked correctly.
The zoo's deputy directory, Gerhard Kasbauer, said zoo employees never enter enclosures with dangerous animals.

Story filed: 17:04 Tuesday 5th March 2002 Woman attacked by tiger while painting 'Tarzan's' home

A Florida woman has been attacked by a tiger while decorating the home of a former Tarzan actor.
Carol Pistilli was bitten on the back of her head by four-year-old Bobo as she painted part of his cage.
Steve Sipek has a permit to keep two lions, four tigers, a black leopard and a cougar in his home.
He allows the big cats to wander the premises and even sleeps in the same area. A sign outside his home in Loxahatchee warns trespassers will be eaten, reports the Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Wildlife officers say Mr Sipek looks after his animals well and the incident was an accident. Mrs Pistilli, 58, is in hospital but her injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.
It is reported she had fed some of the big cats steaks a few minutes before the attack and thought the animals had gone outside when she walked into their cage.
Mr Sipek said: "She didn't think to close the door. She started painting and he pounced on her. Bobo, he's a wonderful cat. He wouldn't hurt anybody. He's a puppy, not a tiger."
Mr Sipek starred as Tarzan in two films under the name Steve Hawkes. He says he fell in love with big cats when a lion dragged him away from a fire on a film set.

Story filed: 16:41 Sunday 3rd February 2002 Man climbs into lions den in 'suicide' bid

A man who was distraught over the death of his son has been mauled to death after climbing into the lions' den at Lisbon zoo.
Gardeners saw the man climb over a 3ft wall and drop about 12ft into a protective moat.
A lioness jumped into the water and bit the man in the neck, killing him instantly.
Zoo director Fernando Garcao said the man's son had been killed in what he thought may have been a shooting incident.
Police have refused to identify the man, who he said was in his 60s, until his relatives have been notified.
He would not confirm that the victim's son had been killed.
Garcao said: "We never thought anyone would do this."

Story filed: 18:00 Thursday 24th January 2002 Three-year-old killed by pet tiger

A pet tiger has killed a three-year-old boy in Texas.
The boy was posing for a photo with the 18-stone animal when it dragged him away by the foot.
The tiger's owner, Kerry Quinney, managed to release the boy but he died in hospital.
Mr Quinney, of Lexington, has raised the Bengal and Siberian-cross tiger called Nala since birth.
Animal care officials say he did have a federal licence to keep three tigers, but it expired three months ago.
Mr Quinney wasn't available for comment.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, the dead boy was his step grandson.
The youngster's parents were there when the incident happened.
Lee County Sheriff Joe Goodson says no criminal charges have been filed.

Story filed: 19:32 Friday 12th October 2001 Lion kills keeper at Paris zoo

A lion in a Parisian zoo has killed one of his keepers.
Prince ripped open the man's carotid artery at Zoo de Vincennes.
Philippe Bourlon's fellow keeper is in hospital suffering from shock, Le Parisien reports.
Officials say the lion escaped and attacked the 23-year-old before returning to his cage.
It has been isolated from the zoo's other lions.
Mr Bourlon had worked at the zoo since 1997.
The zoo is open as normal.

Story filed: 12:21 Wednesday 26th September 2001 Lion tamer 'thrown around like rag doll' by circus big cats

An Australian lion tamer has been mauled by two of his big cats during a circus performance.
Geoffrey Lennon of Lennon Brothers Circus is undergoing surgery for puncture wounds to his chest, back, arms and buttocks. He was taken to hospital in a serious condition.
His grandmother, Caroline, told Ananova they "threw him around like a rag doll" at the circus in Penrith, western Sydney.
She said the lions will probably be retired, saying: "Once they've tasted blood they're dangerous."
Emergency workers had to wait for the animals to be pushed back by fire hoses before they could reach Mr Lennon.
Paramedics say Mr Lennon, 40, was suffering severe shock when they arrived to treat him.
But his grandmother said there are no plans to cancel future shows.
"The shows will go on," she told Ananova. "But without the lions."
No one else was injured during the attack.

Story filed: 11:34 Saturday 11th August 2001 Tiger mauls trainer to death as he protects colleague

A tiger has mauled an animal trainer to death as he tried to protect his colleague.
Vincent Lowe and a female trainer were fixing a fence at Savage Kingdom in Sumter County, Florida, when the Siberian tiger lunged at them.
They tried to use a board to push the tiger back into its holding cage but as it overpowered them, Mr Lowe insisted the woman get out of the compound and secure the gate behind her.
Lt Gary Brannen said the tiger tore a gash in Mr Lowe's neck, broke his ribs and clawed his head and arms. The park's owner, Mr Robert Baudy, shot the animal dead.
When paramedics arrived Mr Lowe was dead, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
Lt Brannen said: "He was trying to keep the cat at bay until she could get out. He told her to get out and shut the door. Maybe he thought he'd be able to control the animal and get it back into the other cage."

Story filed: 17:26 Wednesday 1st August 2001 Tiger fatally mauls worker at animal park

A tiger broke through its cage at an exotic animal park in northern Florida and fatally mauled a 49-year-old worker.
The man had entered a cage at Savage Kingdom, near Orlando, to make repairs.
The male Siberian in an adjoining cage broke through the wires and pounced.
The tiger was shot by the park's operator big cat expert so rescue crews could get inside.
Paramedics said the man suffered a fatal bite to his neck and severe injuries to his head, arm and ribs.
The dead worker had a gun for protection, but he was unable to fire it and it was found on the ground.
Savage Kingdom breeds exotic animals for zoos and attractions throughout the world.
Once open to the public as a zoo, admission into the park is now severely restricted.
In March 1997, a Siberian tiger escaped from the park and seriously injured a worker before it was shot.

Story filed: 02:51 Wednesday 1st August 2001 Tiger that bit girl destroyed for testing

A white Siberian tiger which broke out of its cage and bit a seven-year-old girl has been destroyed so it could be tested for rabies.
The death was ordered on Friday after the two-year-old tiger's owners lost an appeal in court to have the action delayed pending submission of additional evidence.
Como the tiger broke out at a private wild animal park in Racine, Minnesota, last Sunday and bit Emily Hartman, who was with her mother in a building not usually open to the public.
Emily was released from a hospital on Wednesday.
State law requires that when an animal other than a vaccinated dog or house cat bites a person, its brain must be examined for rabies or the victim must get rabies shots.
While modern rabies shots are described as less painful than they were several years ago, the girl's parents, Tom and Mary Hartman, told officials she had had negative reactions to vaccinations before and refused to allow the shots.
Ken Craft, who owns the shelter, was disappointed officials couldn't find a way to spare the rare animal.
"This is a bunch of baloney," Mr Craft said. "We do not want people to think we put this cat ahead of the little girl, but I think we could have had both."
Christine Chandler, curator of the park, said she wanted authorities to take whatever tissue they needed for their tests and then leave Como so the tiger could be stuffed.
"This tiger will be mounted," she said. "That's something I'm normally not in favour of, but in this case I want everyone who comes in to be reminded of what happened."

Story filed: 12:54 Saturday 28th July 2001 Big Cats presenter mauled by a lion


Zoologist Nigel Marven has been mauled by a lion during the filming of new ITV documentary Big Cats.
The incident occurred as the presenter stood next to a hand-reared adult lion called Napoleon.
Napoleon stuck a claw into his leg and then tried to take a bite out of his head.
Mr Marven said: "I was a complete stranger so, understandably, Napoleon was a bit hostile."
Other highlights of the show include two leopards mating aggressively in the African bush and some intimate contact with Siberian tigers. ITV wildlife special Big Cats is on Sunday July 22.

Story filed: 16:17 Wednesday 11th July 2001 Lions maul zookeeper to death

A zookeeper has been mauled to death by four lions at a zoo in Valladolid, north-west Spain.
The zoo authorities said that the 25-year-old had taken the animals into another part of their cage but had not secured the door properly.
The body of the man, who has not been named, could only be recovered six hours after the incident because the animals first had to be shot with tranquilliser guns.

Story filed: 15:19 Friday 29th June 2001 Boy bitten by lion in Romanian street

An eight-year-old boy was attacked by a lion in Romania's second-biggest city.
Ionut Chicus was bitten on his shoulder by the lion, which had escaped from a photographer who was offering the animal to tourists to have their picture taken with it.
The lion was recaptured by police in Brasov, southern Transylvania. The boy is recovering in hospital.

Story filed: 15:40 Thursday 12th April 2001 Children watch as tiger mauls another to death

A group of kindergarten children looked on in horror as one tiger mauled another to death at a Nebraska zoo.
It happened after the two rare animals were accidentally allowed into the same cage at the zoo in Omaha. One staff member at Henry Doorly Zoo has been fired and another suspended.
A faulty gate and human error allowed the two tigers to wander into the same outdoor cage, zoo director Lee Simmons said. News of the attack surfaced after the mother of one of the children rang the zoo to find out how the victim was.
The Indochinese tiger, a male, killed the female Bengal tiger "in the blink of an eye," Mr Simmons said. Both are rare breeds.
Mr Simmons said: "A couple of our folks simply lost their focus and put some animals where they weren't supposed to be."
The zoo had planned to use the Bengal tiger as a surrogate mother in its embryo transfer program, which is aimed at maximising the number of Bengals that are born. The zoo now has three Bengals.
The Indochinese tiger is one of two that the zoo has on loan from the Cincinnati Zoo.

Story filed: 17:26 Tuesday 10th April 2001 Woman killed by ailing leopard

A sick leopard has attacked and killed a woman in a South African safari park.
Kotie De Beer, 49, is the first Kruger National Park employee to be killed by a leopard.
The cat, which is thought to have launched the attack as it had heart disease and couldn't live with other leopards, was tracked down and shot an hour after the attack.
Kruger National Park director David Mabunda says it had apparently gone to the staff village where it could find easy prey.
Illegal immigrants are occasionally eaten by lions while they try to sneak through the park that lies on the Mozambique border.

Story filed: 11:06 Friday 9th March 2001 Injured man 'mauled by tiger'

A 54-year-old man has apparently been mauled by a tiger.
The man was reportedly attacked in the grounds of a manor house near Keal Cotes, near Spilsby, Lincolnshire.
Police say he was taken to the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston for injuries not thought to be life-threatening. He is in a satisfactory condition.
Officials from East Lindsey District Council have been alerted after reports the tiger was part of a circus.
Ambulance control room manager Chris Stocks said: "We got a report of a chap who had been attacked by a tiger. We understand he keeps them at the location but that is only a suggestion."
A Lincolnshire police spokesman said: "Officers attended a location near Keal Cotes after reports of an animal attack on a 54-year-old male. "

Story filed: 12:37 Tuesday 6th February 2001 Man attacked by pet lion

A landlord in the US was attacked by a lion cub when he went to check one of his properties.
Ray Besore was attacked by the mountain lion cub at the house in Omaha, Nebraska, after his tenant had been arrested for an armed robbery.
The beast pounced at him but he managed to escape from the home without being injured. Authorities will question the alleged bank robber before deciding what to do with his pet.

Story filed: 19:43 Wednesday 20th December 2000 Girl mauled by German circus animal

A circus animal that broke through its cage critically wounded a five-year-old girl while trying to pull her back inside.
The liger, a cross between a lion and tiger, was passing through an enclosed entry tunnel at the Saturday afternoon circus in Germany when it reached its paw through the bars and grabbed the girl's left foot, tearing her skin and muscle tissue.
Her father and another man managed to pull her away, preventing the animal from dragging her inside the cage.
Police are investigating whether the fault for the accident in the Bavarian town of Amberg lies with the circus for deficient safety measures or with the girl's parents.
The animal's trainer had warned the audience to stay back before the liger made its entrance. However, a fence that was installed between the seats and the tunnel as additional security wasn't securely fastened, and the liger was able to knock it over to grab the girl.

Story filed: 12:55 Sunday 5th November 2000 Man killed after entering tiger's cage

A mentally handicapped man has been killed by a tiger after jumping into its cage at an Indian zoo.
The 20-year-old was bitten in the neck after he climbed into the enclosure with the white tiger at Peshwe Park Zoo in Pune, near Bombay.
He was rescued by zoo officials who drove the tiger back into its second cage, but the man was declared dead on arrival at hospital.
Police say the man had been seen loitering around the nearby Sarasbaug Gardens, where a security guard drove him away, The Times of India reports.
The boy then went to the zoo and jumped into the cage with the tiger which pounced and bit him.

Story filed: 11:34 Monday 9th October 2000 The Express
July 4, 2000


THERE are now an estimated 7,000 tigers owned as pets in the US - about as many as are free in the wild, worldwide. But as they mature from cubs into prospective killers, many are abandoned or given up by people ill-prepared to handle them.

Now cast-off pet tigers and other exotic pets such as lions and leopards are becoming a problem for America. The lack of regulation and safety standards together with declining prices is creating a public menace, say animal rights advocates who struggle to find homes in zoos and sanctuaries for the big cats. Some rescue centres more used to dealing with dogs and cats have had to create special wings to house larger felines.

Most owners fall in love with the big cats when they are playful, cuddly cubs.

"But as they get bigger, people can't afford them or can't physically handle them any more," said Sue Neil of the Houston chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She added that de-clawing them - a route often taken by owners - is not only cruel but makes them more aggressive.

Ten years ago, one of these magnificent beasts would have fetched thousands of dollars in a market dominated by a tiny number of established dealers. Now, as prices have dropped to lower than that paid for many dog breeds, a new crop of sellers eager to exploit their wild allure has emerged.

Classified adverts in newspapers and on the Internet offer leopards for GBP 250, urging prospective buyers: "Bring the wild into your home."

And exotic pet newsletters offer for sale big cats of almost every species, including tiger cubs for GBP 200.

Veterinarian Greg Hayes of Boulder, Colorado, who raises exotic pets for the entertainment industry, says many dealers intent only on making money "pass themselves off as conservationists or educators when they really don't know anything about raising these animals".

Ownership, mainly in the South and Midwest, varies from couples wanting them as house pets, and animal lovers who have their own zoos, to even drug dealers who use them as watch-cats.

"Even when the big cats are only playing, they can kill," warns the US Agriculture Depart-ment, which is trying to discourage all but qualified, trained professionals from owning them.

In the past year, a four-year-old had an arm torn off by his uncle's Bengal tiger in Longview, Texas, and a girl of 10 was killed by her stepfather's pair of Siberian tigers in Yorktown, Texas.

At present, breeders and dealers must be licensed by the government, which conducts periodic inspections of facilities. But ownership is not federally controlled and, other than half-a-dozen states including Georgia and New Jersey that prohibit them as pets, owners don't face any regulations at all.Animal rights advocates insist that the least the government can do is introduce obligatory training for owners.

LOAD-DATE: July 3, 2000 Escaped jaguar kills child
From BBC News 6 th December 1998
A jaguar which escaped from a zoo in western France has killed a young boy.
The animal bit and mauled Gregoire Lucazeau on Saturday afternoon, and seriously injured the boy's father as he desperately tried to fight it off.
The jaguar was one of two 100kg females that tunnelled out of their cage at a zoo in Doue-la-Fontaine, near Poitiers, 250km (150 miles) from Paris.
The animals scratched away at earth under the perimeter fence of their enclosure and slipped through the gap.
They headed for a group of visitors and one of them turned on the boy.
The attacking jaguar was shot by police and the other was captured and put to sleep on Sunday morning because it showed signs of aggressive behaviour.
Both animals had been bred at the zoo, which has around 200,000 visitors a year.
The authorities are now investigating how the boy was attacked. The zoo has been closed until further notice.
“The child didn't pass through any security zone," state prosecutor Yves Gambert told France Info radio.
The boy was bitten repeatedly in the head and died of his wounds. His father, an officer from the nearby military training college at Angers, tackled the creature bare-handed. The man was hospitalised with head wounds, but is out of danger.
He was "very courageous, because he tried to free his son from the claws of the animal," nurse Noura Oumaziz told French television LCI.

Monday, December 30, 2002

2002 Exotic Cat Attacks

The Washington Post
September 03, 2002

A Cat-Fight Brews Over Backyard Wildlife; Push for Federal Curbs on Tigers
as Pets Is Strongly Opposed by Some Private Owners

Helen Rumbelow, Washington Post Staff Writer

For Suzette Stidom, having a pet tiger in her back yard is one of the rights that make her proud to be living in the United States.

Top Cat, who prowls around his enclosure behind Stidom's home in Houston, is just one of an estimated 5,000 pet tigers in the country -- a number believed to be at least equal to the world's wild tiger population.

"I got him because I wanted to be different from everyone else," said Stidom, who has owned Top Cat and his companion, a lion, for eight years.

"If you can afford to feed them, and keep them safely as they get old, you should be allowed to have one. This is America." But a coalition of animal welfare groups, headed by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and the Humane Society of the United States, says the booming trade in pet tigers poses a danger -- particularly to children and the tigers themselves. And it's a danger, they say, that has crept up on Americans without warning.

Not only is it legal to keep a pet tiger in most states, but it is also largely unregulated -- a situation responsible, the two groups say, for the reports of pet tigers maiming, or killing, humans every year.

From an animal welfare point of view, they say that tigers -- who in captivity are just as fertile as domestic cats -- are filling up animal sanctuaries. They arrive after stalking an owner's children, being found chained up in basements, being used as "guard dogs" by drug dealers or wandering through neighborhoods.

The coalition is backing the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, a bill introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), which seeks to bar the interstate movement of bears and big cats. This would be the first federal regulation of tigers as pets. Pet tigers are not covered by federal endangered species law because those in private hands usually come from "mongrel" strains.

An exception in the proposed legislation would be made for animals that have a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates licensed outfits such as circuses, zoos, sanctuaries or research facilities, Miller said. Noting that both USDA and the American Veterinary Medical Association strongly oppose big cats being kept by untrained private owners, Miller said he believes the legislation is not controversial and could be enacted before the end of the current congressional session.

"This is a stunning cultural phenomenon, but it's the first time a serious effort has been made to try and stop it," said Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society.

"There is no justifiable reason for a person to have a tiger or a lion as a pet. These are potentially dangerous animals, and they belong in the wild, not languishing in a dirty cage in someone's back yard in Arkansas or New Jersey or Ohio," he said.

The Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opened a special wing at its shelter to house big cats in response to the increasing numbers. The group rescues about one pet tiger every three months and twice that number of other big cats. Texas does not ban pet tigers but requires them to be registered.

"It never ceases to amaze us what people will attempt to keep as pets and under what conditions," said Patricia Mercer, executive director of the Houston group. "These are gorgeous animals, and people buy the kittens as pets for their children -- they reproduce in huge numbers and anyone can get them on the Internet for $ 500." Celebrity tiger owners, such as Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson, only increase their appeal.

"But this is absolutely insane -- children are about the size of their prey in the wild, and they like to stalk them. It is like putting a time bomb in your back yard," Mercer said.

There have been three savage attacks by tigers kept in back yards in Texas in the last three years: In October, a 3-year-old boy was killed by his grandfather's pet tiger, and the year before, a 4-year-old had his arm ripped off by a pet tiger kept by his uncle. In 1999, a 10-year-old girl was killed when a tiger clamped its jaws around her head while she was helping her stepfather brush the pet's fur.

At least seven people have been killed by tigers in the United States in the last four years, said Philip Nyhus, an assistant professor of environmental studies at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. This is less than the number killed by dogs, which kill about 15 people a year. But given their relative numbers, it makes tigers one of the country's most lethal pets.

When owners grow afraid or tired of the tigers, which grow to 600 pounds and eat 20 pounds of meat a day, the animals often end up at the humane society, Mercer said.

Recently, Mercer's inspectors went to a home on an unrelated charge and found five tigers in critical condition and one dead. They had been kept for breeding purposes. Other tigers arrive at the shelter with their paws mutilated by attempts to declaw them with garden shears.

The lack of regulation means that no one knows exactly how many pet tigers there are in the United States.

The International Species Information System, which tracks the number of animals in licensed zoos and sanctuaries, says there are 1,151 tigers in the world's zoos, about half of them in the United States. No one knows precisely the number of wild tigers -- a highly endangered species – but conservation experts believe it is about 5,000.

The only person believed to have tried to count America's pet tigers is the writer Alan Green, for his book, "Animal Underworld"; he estimated roughly 5,000 five years ago.

According to a recent report by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZAA), 11 states, including Maryland, and the District of Columbia ban tigers as pets, and seven states have partial bans. Fourteen states, including Virginia, require permits, and the rest have minimal restrictions, such as asking for a veterinary certificate. Enforcement is often lax, Green said.

Green visited most state capitals to get the available documents on pet tiger regulation; in their absence, he made estimates by monitoring trading on the Internet and animals offered to sanctuaries and zoos.

"We don't know for sure, but I would feel pretty confident in saying that we have at least as many pet tigers in the United States as in the wild," said Steve Olson, director of government affairs at AZAA.

"We know the numbers are large because our members get offered a lot of unwanted tigers every year," he said. "[I]t's hard because zoo collections are very carefully managed genetically and can't just take in a fully grown pet tiger."

Groups that oppose such regulation say it tars responsible owners with those who abuse their animals, said Patti Strand, president of the National Animal Interest Alliance. Another organization, the 13,000-strong Ohio Association of Animal Owners, has been active in opposing restrictions on exotic animal ownership; officials did not return calls for comment.

"Laws like this have in mind a stereotypical person who owns an exotic without knowing anything about them," Strand said. "But . . . under certain conditions, it can be appropriate. Some people are fanciers who really take a lot of time and care over looking after their animals."

Sunday, September 22, 2002

3 lions killed after being loose near Quitman


QUITMAN (AP) -- State and local investigators are trying to figure out who owned three lions that were found roaming the countryside of Cleburne County, sending residents into a panic.

The 600-800 pound African lions were shot and killed after several days on the loose.

Authorities killed a male African lion found in a wooded area Friday. It was the third lion to be killed near or on the property of Safari Unlimited, a lion and tiger farm.

The owner, Steve Henning, said the lions didn't belong to him. He speculated the animals were released on his farm sometime early Thursday morning. Safari Unlimited has at least 10 lions and two tigers, Henning said. He said he has a permit to keep the animals as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Arkansas does not have a law regulating the harboring of exotic animals. By the end of the day Friday, two of the lions had been killed, one shot by Henning, another by his neighbor. One of the lions had also attacked and killed a camel on a nearby farm.
Once word got out that the lions were on the loose, residents became frantic.

"People were running up and down this road, and it seemed like everyone had a gun," Henning said. "It was awful."

Henning's neighbor, James Heaver, wasn't taking any chances. "I walked my kids to the school bus stop this morning with a rifle," Heaver said.

The state Game and Fish Commission issued orders that the lions be killed. "With the danger to human life and domestic livestock, the choice was clear," said Loren Hitchcock, the commission's assistant director of enforcement.

Residents of the area blame Henning for the incident. They say the lions would never have been loose in their community if Henning did not keep wild animals on his property.
"I want him gone," said neighbor Johnny Vaughan. "It's sad. Those animals shouldn't be penned up like that. It's not a life for an animal and it's dangerous for us. Someone should investigate this."

Jack Allen, a deputy with the Cleburne County sheriff's office, said his agency has little authority over Henning's operation.

He said officers checked on Henning's animals and, "they were in real good shape."

Tiger Attacks Child at Calif. School
09/20/02 20:22 EDT
.c The Associated Press

SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. (AP) - A tiger grabbed a child by his head Friday at a school assembly, sending the 6-year-old boy to a hospital.

A trainer was leading the tiger from an auditorium at Baymonte Christian School when it lurched over seats and grabbed the boy's head in its jaws, police Capt. Harry Bidleman said.

The boy was in guarded condition at Stanford Medical Center, spokesman Robert Dicks said. A CT scan would be used to determine any head injuries, then stitches would be used to close the cuts on his head.

Principal Steve Patterson wrestled the boy from the tiger, school spokesman Jenny Paul said.

The tiger's appearance at the school was a reward for students who sold magazine subscriptions. Paul said about 150 children attended.

The tiger was in the custody of Zoo to You Wildlife Education Inc., Bidleman said. Police planned to coordinate an investigation with animal control agencies.

``It sounds more accidental than criminal, but there could be some overseeing bodies that would want this completely investigated,'' he said.

Zoo to You did not immediately return a message asking for comment.

Ark. Town on Edge After Lions Killed
09/23/02 17:13 EDT
.c The Associated Press

QUITMAN, Ark. (AP) - Lisa Vaughan says her log cabin in the woods was so peaceful that sometimes the only sound that could be heard was the trees swaying in the wind.

Now she's listening for lions.

In the past week, four 600- to 800-pound African lions believed to have some connection to a nearby exotic animal farm have been killed near this central Arkansas town. And residents say the terror may not be over, because no one knows for sure whether more lions are on the loose.

``I had a terrible headache and my blood pressure has been up. ... It's been a long ordeal,'' said Vaughan, whose husband, Johnny, killed two of the lions with his .30-06 rifle.

``Everybody is scared around here,'' added neighbor Arvil Skinner. ``People have to sit out with a high-powered rifle just to let their kids play in the yard.

``That's just how serious it is. It might be all right and it might not. They might still be out there. We just don't know.''

The Vaughans believe the lions belong to animal farm operator Steve Henning, who moved in on the other side of the patch of trees almost a year ago with 11 African lions, 30 tigers, five mountain lions and a lynx.

Henning says the lions killed in the woods were not his. He speculates that someone who tried to give him lions last week turned them loose on the 44-acre property of Safari Unlimited, the lion and tiger farm he operates. The farm is not open to the public, Henning said.

Aside from the pens where Henning keeps his cats, the property is not fully fenced.

Neighbors expressed disbelief over Henning's response.

``That really blows my mind how anyone could believe that story,'' Lisa Vaughan said.

Henning was not able to give Cleburne County sheriff's deputies or Arkansas Game and Fish officials the name of a person they could track down, authorities said.

``Mr. Henning told us the guy goes by different names and he doesn't know where he lives,'' Deputy Jack Allen said.

Sheriff Dudley Lemon inspected Safari Unlimited and said he thinks Henning is telling the truth. But he added that believing Henning's story does mean more big cats could be roaming the woods.

Johnny Vaughan said he will be the first to apologize to Henning if it's proven the lions that have been killed didn't belong to him. But he and his neighbors around this town of 700 want local laws amended so that Henning can't keep lions and tigers in their neighborhood.

``We've got to try and pass something to not only protect the people, but to protect the animals,'' Vaughan said. ``It's sad to think that someone can have that many animals but they don't need some sort of license.''

Sunday, September 29, 2002
Police shoot, kill escaped tiger

Animal fled from owners at B-N truck stop

By Megan Hopper
Pantagraph staff

BLOOMINGTON -- A Bengal tiger weighing approximately 390 pounds was shot and killed Saturday after escaping from a trailer at the Travelcenters of America truck stop in Bloomington.

The 2-year-old, 8-foot-long male tiger named Tigger was reported missing at about 5 a.m. Saturday when it got away from its owner at the truck stop at the junction of Interstate 55/74 and Market Street in Bloomington.

The owner of the tiger, Mary Jeanne Williams, 44, of Ivanhoe, Texas, was traveling with her son, John Bryan Johnson, 19, with the animal, Bloomington police said. The tiger apparently escaped as Johnson was trying to give it some water.

Officers from Bloomington, Normal, the McLean County Sheriff's Department, and Illinois State Police and members of the Bloomington Fire Department, set up a perimeter around the truck stop to try to locate the tiger, according to Duane Moss, media relations specialist for Bloomington police.

Miller Park Zoo employees also were on hand.

A state police helicopter, a bloodhound and a Bloomington Fire Department ladder truck helped officials find the tiger and trap it in the brush line next to Travel America.

Andy Schickle brought his scent-discriminating bloodhound to the scene to help in the search. Schickle said the dog was able to help locate the tiger after smelling its pillow to get its scent.

After locating the tiger, officials tried for several hours to tranquilize it but were not successful, said Bloomington police Assistant Chief Kevin Livingston. Bloomington-Normal veterinarian Matt Fraker and Miller Park Zoo director John Tobias assisted with the attempts at tranquilizing the animal.

According to Moss, authorities also attempted to use an animal capture gun brought in from the Glen Oak Zoo in Peoria, but it malfunctioned.
After the animal advanced along a fence toward officers positioned to stop its movement, the tiger was shot and killed.

Livingston said he believed the animal had been shot twice but did not know which agency was responsible.

"It did not end the way we had hoped it would end," he said.
Fraker, a veterinarian at the Prairie Oak Veterinary Center, said they had no choice but to shoot the tiger because 20 seconds after it was shot with a blow gun it jumped up onto a Department of Conservation truck.

Bloomington police had an excellent organizational plan, Fraker said, and restrained from shooting the tiger when it was running around.
"The reason why this was so drawn out is because of the BPD's patience to get the tiger out," he added.

Fraker said he has never had a positive experience with tigers and feels they should not be privately owned.

"Some people might think it's cool to own an animal like this, but this is not cool, so don't do it," he added.

Tim and Cindy Lee of Bloomington heard of the tiger on the loose Saturday morning and went to Travel America to see what was going on.

Tim, who heard the tiger roar several times, said, "Oh, you hear it, and it just makes the hair on your arm stand up. When it roars, it's something and everybody scatters, even the policemen with guns."
Moss said no charges were being filed against Williams or Johnson but added that the case would be referred to federal authorities for further review of possible transportation regulation violations.

Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Feds investigate tiger shooting

By Karen Blatter
Pantagraph staff
BLOOMINGTON -- Federal authorities continue to investigate a Texas woman
whose pet tiger escaped from a trailer and was shot dead Saturday near a
Bloomington truck stop.
The 2-year-old Bengal tiger named Tigger had been staying at a sanctuary in
Hennepin, but a judge ordered the animal removed from the state after the
animal bit a 7-year-old girl, causing more than 100 stitches.
Because of that incident, owner Mary Jeanne Williams was taking the tiger
back to Texas when she and her son, John Bryan Johnson, stopped in
Bloomington for breakfast.
Previously, the nearly 400-pound tiger lived on Williams' 125-acre farm in
Ivanhoe, Texas, and was transported to Illinois after a new law in Texas
required her to have a license to keep the animal.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating the case, but no charges
have been filed against Williams.
Williams, her son, and the tiger had stopped at Travel Centers of America,
505 Truckers Lane, when Johnson opened the trailer gate to water the animal
about 5 a.m. Saturday. The tiger pushed against the gate and escaped into
the parking lot. Police warned neighbors to stay indoors and sectioned off
the area as police and zoo officials tried to sedate the animal.
Tigger was shot about 3 p.m. after the tiger charged a truck on which two
officers were stationed. Authorities feared the animal would jump a fence
and run into a neighborhood. Police had been ordered not to shoot the animal
unless it tried to leave an area surrounded by armed officers.
Normal veterinarian Matt Fraker, who works with animals at Miller Park Zoo,
said large exotic animals should not be kept as household pets. "They have
the ability to be tame to some degree," he said, adding that a situation
like Saturday's "is impossible to prevent -- they still retain basic
survival instincts."
Fraker and Miller Park Zoo director John Tobias said Williams' trailer was
inadequate transportation for the tiger because it didn't contain two
barriers to prevent escape.
The zoo moves animals in cages that are contained within a vehicle, such as
a van. The two walls allow workers to feed and water the animals without
allowing an escape route.
The Williams' trailer only had a gate covered by a ramp that could be
lowered. Williams and her son were able to coax Tigger close to the trailer
before police arrived, but the animal was startled and ran off.
"I told Bryan just to wait for me (before giving Tigger water) while I
finished a bite to eat and coffee, but he was just too excited to be around
Tigger again," said Williams. "(Tigger) just wanted to get out and play with
his brother."
Williams' farm in northeast Texas has an enclosure with a pond. At times,
the tiger was allowed into the house with the family, she said.
'That is as big as my kitchen'
Bloomington police, state police, conservation officers and other
authorities tried to watch the tiger, which was difficult because it was
hiding in thick brush next to a chain-link fence. Fraker tried
unsuccessfully several times to tranquilize the animal with a blow gun and a
tranquilizer gun.
The fence abutted the back yard of Marjorie Locke's home at 710 Brad St.,
where an officer warned her not to go outside. She got into her car in her
garage and left during the nine-hour standoff, but was unable to return home
until after the tiger was shot.
"I didn't see it or hear it, but it was kind of scary," she said. "I don't
think they should be allowed as pets. I heard it was 8 feet long -- that is
as big as my kitchen."
The animal's body is at the McLean County morgue, where it is being held as
evidence. The tiger may be turned over to the U.S. Department of Fish and
Wildlife Services because Bengal tigers are an endangered species.

Police Kill Escaped Tiger at Illinois Truck Stop
Mon Sep 30, 9:17 AM ET
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (Reuters) - Illinois police shot and killed a 400-pound Bengal tiger that escaped from its owner at a roadside truck stop near a residential area on Saturday.
A veterinarian in the central Illinois town of Bloomington unsuccessfully tried to tranquilize the 8-foot-long tiger four times before police killed it because it appeared to become aggressive.
Bloomington police spokesman Duane Moss said the animal was being transported in a wooden crate on a trailer pulled by a car. The tiger's owner, 44-year-old Mary Jeanne Williams of Ivanhoe, Texas, told police the animal broke out of the crate when her son went to give it some water.
She and her 19-year-old son, John Bryan Johnson, were released after questioning by police, who said they would refer the case to federal authorities for the possible violation of animal transportation laws.
While the tiger was on the loose for hours, about two dozen police officers kept it corralled against a fence that separated the truck stop from a nearby residential area.
Several attempts by the tiger's owner to retrieve the animal were unsuccessful. Police shot the animal when it made "aggressive" moves toward a pickup truck that had several conservation officers on top, Moss said.

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&cid=573&ncid=757&e=1&u=/nm/20020930/od_nm/life_tiger_dc http://www.pantagraph.com/stories/100602/new_20021006041.shtml
Sunday, October 6, 2002

Outside the bars - regulations lax for exotic animals

By Scott Richardson
Pantagraph staff
Lions and tigers and bears inhabit more than the Land of Oz. Toothy animals and other dangerous critters are found in the Land of Lincoln as well.
Last weekend's encounter with a tiger that got loose at a Bloomington truck stop just yards from a residential area is one example.
Most exotic, atypical animals reside behind bars in zoos, wildlife refuges and research centers regulated by federal, state and local authorities. But many that don't, avoid the net of detection unless there's trouble.
For example, the federal government has no jurisdiction over exotic animals kept as pets.
A "pet" is exactly how Mary Williams of Texas described her relationship with her tiger, Tigger, before Bloomington authorities shot it to death after its escape. Authorities apparently question Tigger's legal status as a pet, because a federal investigation of the episode is under way.
Beasts for sale
Officials say it's surprising that more incidents of that sort don't happen, because the market for wild beasts is exploding in America. Magazines devote pages and pages to exotic pet owners. Internet sites offer tiger cubs for as little as $200.
"You can buy them for less than registered puppies," said Mary Hartman, of Rochester, Minn.
Hartman is becoming a crusader for stricter control of dangerous animals after her 7-year-old daughter, Emily, was injured in an attack by a tiger at a roadside menagerie a year ago.
"It's the law of supply and demand. They are so cheap because there's so many out there," she said. "And regulations are so lax, you can drop an elephant through them. Regulations have not kept up with the growth of the private sector."
Several government agencies are charged with overseeing the domestic jungle.
At the forefront is the federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. The agency licenses zoos, circuses, exhibitors, pet stores and other dealers of exotic animals. People who transport exotic animals also must be licensed.
Some animals indigenous to the United States are classified as endangered or threatened, such as certain raptors. Their owners must be licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
No one tracks 'pets'
But no agency keeps track of people who have exotic animals as pets, said USDA spokesman Jim Rogers.
"You can have your own private zoo, and as long as you don't invite your neighbor over and charge him a buck to see it, you're legal," he said. "I don't think anybody out there keeps numbers of them."
The USDA did take one action last year in the arena of private ownership of exotic pets. The agency issued a warning to "remind people the cats are dangerous, just in case they'd forgotten," Rogers quipped.
As a result, regulation of private ownership falls under local and state laws, which Hartman calls inadequate.
In Bloomington, Tigger may have violated an old city ordinance prohibiting bears or other dangerous animals from roaming the streets without a leash. No prosecution is planned at this point, said Bloomington Corporation Counsel Todd Greenburg.
State law in Illinois is more restrictive.
The Department of Natural Resources licenses animal rehabilitators to nurse injured and sick adult game mammals and birds, or abandoned young until they can be returned to the wild.
For animals uncommon to Illinois, the Ag Department administers the Dangerous Animals Act. Anyone lacking a federal permit -- zoos, pet stores, licensed dealers and transporters -- may not possess lions, tigers, bears or a variety of other animals that walk or crawl.
The act also prohibits private ownership of big cats, hyenas, wolves and coyotes.
The list also includes poisonous or life-threatening reptiles. That includes constrictors that reach 6 feet in length -- like the one that squeezed the life out of a child in Southern Illinois. That occurred after Jeff Squibb joined the Illinois Department of Agriculture as a spokesman 3 1/2 years ago.
Animal stories
The recent Bloomington incident was not the first involving a tiger during Squibb's tenure. Seven men have been charged in the Chicago area with killing tigers for hides and other body parts for use as folk remedies and aphrodisiacs.
Squibb and Carroll Imig, assistant administrator of the Ag Department's Bureau of Animal Welfare, admit it's unlikely the agency will even know about an exotic animal in the state until a complaint is received. Fortunately, Squibb said, such complaints "are few and far between."
Rare dangerous animals sometimes just show up in the countryside without explanation.
The last known record of a wild mountain lion in Illinois was in Alexander County -- in 1862. So where did a mountain lion struck and killed by a train in Randolph County in 2000 come from? Was it wild or an escaped captive? No one came forward to claim the carcass or accept responsibility.
Lt. Tony Norman of the state Department of Natural Resources conservation police said he got calls from excited hunters wondering if they could shoot an elk that escaped from a game farm.
The answer? Yes. DNR only regulates wildlife that are protected or have hunting seasons controlled by law. The elk is not among those.
At times, DNR also gets the first call about exotic animals.
Norman recalls a case where a woman had two tigers as pets in a cage no stronger than a dog kennel.
The larger tiger decided to kill the smaller one and easily tore down a fence separating the two. Alarmed, the owners tried to shoot the larger tiger with a shotgun. They succeeded only in wounding and enraging it. It was finally killed with a rifle.

"This happens. It's unfortunate when it does," Norman said. http://www.app.com/app2001/story/0,21133,628068,00.html

Jackson tiger victim in critical condition
Published in the Asbury Park Press 10/12/02

JACKSON -- The husband of Joan Byron-Marasek, the owner of the Tigers Only Preservation Society, was in critical condition after being attacked by one of the compound's 24 tigers as he tended to the animals yesterday afternoon, police said.

Janiw Marasek, 70, was taken by ambulance to Jersey Shore Medical Center, Neptune, with injuries to his upper left arm, head and face. A hospital spokeswoman labeled his condition as stable yesterday afternoon, but declined to elaborate. Last evening, the hospital reported his condition as critical.

Marasek was conscious and alert when police arrived at the 12-acre compound near Route 537 and Allyson Road at about 3:15 p.m., Lt. Richard Ferrarelli said. It was not clear whether he'd been bitten or mauled -- or both – by the tiger.

Police had no information on just what Janiw Marasek was doing when the animal struck.
All 24 of the preserve's tigers were accounted for late yesterday, police said. No other injuries were reported.

Joan Byron-Marasek has fought with authorities over her compound since Jan. 27, 1999, when a 430-pound Bengal tiger was found roaming loose in a neighborhood nearby. The animal, never proven to be Byron-Marasek's, was shot and killed after efforts to tranquilize it failed.

Ferrarelli stressed that at no time was there any risk that tigers might escape the compound yesterday. The attack took place in what Ferrarelli described as the "innermost fenced area."

"The tigers are kept in the center of the compound," Ferrarelli said. "Around that are several layers of fencing, and the attack took place in the center of the compound."

As of late yesterday, police were treating the incident as a first aid call and an animal attack. The state Division of Fish & Wildlife and the Ocean ounty Prosecutor's Office were also investigating.
Ferrarelli said Division of Fish & Wildlife officials would determine what, if anything, would happen to the attacking tiger.

Joan Byron-Marasek could not be reached for comment last night. Darren M. Gelber, a Woodbridge attorney who represents Byron-Marasek in court proceedings over the state's plan to move the tigers to a refuge in Texas, declined to comment about the incident when reached at his law office last night.

Drawn-out court battle

The state has refused to renew the Maraseks' exotic animal permit, maintaining the animals can be better cared for at the Wild Animal Orphanage near San Antonio -- a plan she opposes. Earlier this month, she petitioned Superior Court Eugene D. Serpentelli to reopen a hearing on the relocation plan.

Serpentelli said on July 30, when he closed the hearing, that he would reopen it if she could present a more suitable relocation plan. Joan Byron-Marasek is expected to appear in court again on Oct. 25. Gelber has said he will tell the judge why the orphanage is a "completely inappropriate place to house her tigers."

Bill Sleight, 52, a Byron-Marasek supporter, said yesterday afternoon that such attacks happen occasionally when people deal with large felines. "Every big cat trainer has been bitten or come close," said Sleight, a Long Branch resident who heard about the incident from another Byron-Marasek supporter.

"From what I understand, he let down his guard," Sleight said.

The tigers view the Maraseks as equals, Sleight said. "A tiger hitting a tiger like that is no big deal," Sleight said. "A tiger hitting a person, then it's a big deal. It doesn't necessarily make the animal a bad animal."

Neighbors upset

But Kevin Wingler, 41 -- who lives in The Preserve, a nearby development, and is a Byron-Marasek critic, had a different take.

"If these people are supposed to be professional handlers and it could happen to them, just think what could happen to one of us if it got out," said Wingler, whose back yard borders the Marasek property.

Wingler's daughter, Jessica, 17, was home and learned about the accident soon afterward.
"She was petrified; she didn't know what was going on," Wingler said.

Wingler said yesterday was "like three years (ago) all over again," referring to the wandering tiger incident from January 1999. Elaine Fiore, 38, another Preserve resident whose back yard is adjacent to the compound, has renewed concern a tiger could escape.
"We all said if somebody got killed, they'd (the tigers) be gone like that," said Karen Clag, 36, another Preserve resident, as she snapped her fingers.

Clag said she hopes yesterday's incident will prompt some action in the case. "It's unfortunate it came to that," Clag said. "I just want to see the tigers be removed and nobody hurt."


Husband of `Tiger Lady' attacked in pen
Saturday, October 12, 2002

JACKSON - The husband of "Tiger Lady" Joan Byron-Marasek was attacked by one of the tigers on her controversial preserve near Six Flags Great Adventure yesterday afternoon and suffered severe injuries to his arm, head and face, police said.

The husband, identified in previous published reports as Jan Marasek, was tending to the animals in the tiger pen when he was attacked, police said.

Police described his injuries as significant but not life threatening and said he was conscious and alert en route to the hospital.

Investigators initially worried that one of the 24 Bengal tigers on the Tigers Only Preservation Society (TOPS) preserve was missing, but a preliminary count by police found all the animals there, township police Lt. Rick Ferrarelli said.

Ferrarelli assured concerned residents none of the Bengal tigers came close to escaping the private wildlife facility. "The attack occurred within the most fenced-in area," he said. "At no time was there any threat to public safety."

The injured man was taken to Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune by ambulance with a nearly severed arm and injuries to the head, police said. Marasek's condition was conditionally fair last evening, said Felice Mikelberg, a spokeswoman for Meridian Health System.

The 400-pound animal is one of 24 tigers at the TOPS preserve on Monmouth Road (Route 537), owned and operated by Byron-Marasek. It is two miles from Interstate 195. Jan Marasek was the only other full-time worker on the preserve, Byron-Marasek said in 1999.

The state Department of Environmental Protection sent officers to the site to determine whether the area needed to be secured, DEP spokeswoman Amy Cradic said.

State and local officials have been pressing the "Tiger Lady of New Jersey" to give up ownership of the huge animals or move from the suburban setting since a 430-pound tiger allegedly escaped and roamed for several hours through a nearby neighborhood three years ago.

The animal was shot and killed after tranquilizers failed to subdue it.

While it was never proven the tiger had escaped from Byron-Marasek's lair, DNA tests performed by state officials following the incident linked the tiger to the facility.

Yesterday's ferocious and sudden attack occurred around 3:30 p.m. as the 70-year-old Marasek interacted with the tiger in the innermost fenced pen, police said. The large reserve includes a densely wooded 12-acre area.

Several months after the 1999 incident, the state deemed the preserve unfit for the cats and revoked her license.

Byron-Marasek has fought a mostly losing 3 1/2-year court battle to keep from losing her tigers.

She has battled attempts by the state to place the cats in a San Antonio, Texas, animal orphanage and fought with New York state over a license to move the cats to a 200-acre farm in Hamptonburgh, N.Y.

Byron-Marasek is looking for another large area to move herself and the cats. But state officials say she may even have trouble keeping ownership of the animals.

A DEP official said the state has been concerned about the animal's welfare since they began more closely monitoring her handling of the cats. "The state did do an inspection yesterday," DEP spokesman Al Ivany said in July, "and found that many of the tigers on site are very skinny - one of them with ribs showing, I believe. There's no evidence of food at the site."

Byron-Marasek could not be reached by The Times last night.


Lion escapes, but county won't charge Esko man
by Mike Sylvester
Cloquet Journal
Last Updated: Thursday, October 10th, 2002 07:16:28 AM

ESKO - Charges will not be filed against Esko resident Heath Sunnarborg, who was forced to shoot his pet lion after his escaped from its cage on Sunday.

“We will not be filing charges,” said County Attorney Marv Ketola. “According to the DNR (Department of Natural Resources), he’s not required to have a permit for tigers and lions. You do need a permit for certain types of exotic species, but not lions and tigers.”

Sunnarborg owned the 450-pound adult lion, along with several other exotic animals, including a tiger and a cougar. According to Ketola, the lion dug its way out of some sort of a holding pen on Sunday. Sunnarborg later found the animal and shot it, to prevent it from causing harm.

“This individual did the proper thing,” Ketola added. “The statute requires certain action to be taken in the event of an escape, but the individual did the right thing. He gave notice to the authorities and shot the animal himself.”

Sunnarborg did not return calls to the Pine Journal. It remains unclear what he’ll do with the remainder of his exotic animals.

“It sure would be strange to be driving down a county road and seeing an African lion,” Ketola said. “That’s about as unique as it can get.”

Big cats, big questions
It's up to Texas counties to regulate ownership of lions, tigers and cougars

By STEFFI KAMMERER / The Dallas Morning News

On the morning of his mid-September trial, Charles Ehrhardt put on a T-shirt with the American flag. He thought it would remind the judge of what it stands for. "At least the America I thought I live in. I thought, on my own property I could do whatever I wanted."

And for him, that includes having three tigers and a lion in his yard. But in Franklin County, Texas, there are limits.

Last year, Texas required counties to regulate dangerous animals through an extensive permit process or to ban ownership. With this, Texas joined the majority of states, which control the private possession of exotic animals as pets.

There had been no regulation since the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department ended its oversight of exotic animals in 1997. As a result, Texas, with its wide-open spaces, became a haven for wild animals.
The Ehrhardt case is an example of a classic confrontation between Texas' spirit of individualism and the competing interests of public safety and animal welfare. The laws regulating the ownership of exotic cats in Texas are still taking shape, putting private owners at odds with neighbors and animal-welfare activists.

Nobody knows for sure how many big cats live in Texas households. State Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, estimates about 10,000. Patricia Mercer, director of the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, agrees with that number. "At least," she says. "I guess there are 3,000 in the metropolitan areas alone. There are certainly more than 500 in Houston."

Two weeks ago, Ms. Mercer says, she seized her latest tiger from a private owner near Houston. It was in a makeshift cage attached on the top of a trailer. The animal was pregnant and weighed 160 pounds. It should have been at least 400 pounds. The tiger died within 48 hours.

It's easy to get a big cat. They are advertised in special magazines and on the Internet.

"Lion, tiger, cougar cubs, hand-raised and on the bottle, ready to go," states a typical ad. Prices start at $300. Celebrity tiger owners, such as Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson, only increase their appeal.

But cute little critters grow up to be potentially uncontrollable beasts. All over the country, attacks have alarmed the public. In Texas alone, three children have been injured by tigers in recent years. Last October, a 3-year-old boy in Lexington in the Hill Country was killed by a pet tiger.

The year before, a 4-year-old's arm was ripped off by a pet tiger kept by his uncle in Channelview, near Houston. In 1999, a 10-year-old girl was killed by her stepfather's pet tiger in Yorktown, near San Antonio.

"People say they are wild, but you really have to go to a dictionary to see what wild is," Mr. Ehrhardt says. "They are 100 generations away from wilderness."

Teresa Parker, the neighbor who filed the complaint, offered a different perspective. Her house is next to the three mobile home lots, which the Ehrhardts bought in May. One of the lots is occupied by their house, the two others by the animals. Two of the big cats are in cages the size of a child's bedroom. The other two are staying in a transport trailer until
their cage is finished. They can turn around, but can't do much more. Ms. Parker says she is afraid to let her 8-year-old son play outside. She had 400 residents in the Mount ernon area sign a petition asking that the cats be removed.

Judge Paul Lovier said the Ehrhardts violated the law. Keeping wild animals in Franklin County is prohibited, no matter what license you have, no matter how well the animals are cared for. He issued them a fine of $400 for every day the animals stay where they are.

Almost a month after the trial, Mr. Ehrhardt has still not moved the cats. The fines are adding up, but he has not paid anything. With his income as a construction worker, there's no way he can afford it, he says. If they don't pay, they may be arrested. "This is a violation of constitutional rights." He's considering moving. He would never give his animals away, he says. "If I have to, I'm ready to go to jail."

"I play with them every day. We cuddle, wrestle, roll around the yard. It's part of their enrichment, part of their lives." And, yes, he has been bitten. "But not severely."

He has been reading about tigers since he was a little boy.

"You get addicted to them. This is worse than any drug you can take." And he believes the animals could not live without him and his wife. "They are so used to us. They would get aggressive if we were not around."

Uneven administration

The Ehrhardts might find fewer legal problems in other counties. The state passed the law but left it up to the counties to enforce it. The effect is chaotic. Some counties officially prohibit the private ownership of big cats but do nothing to actually stop pet owners, says Robert "Skip" Trimble, a Dallas lawyer who has studied the issue for years.

Mr. Trimble works for the Texas Human Legislation Network, a grass-roots organization that works for laws that protect animals. He lobbied for passing the bill and says there is nothing wrong with the law. "But many counties, for whatever reason, are not enforcing it. Some might not want to deal with the paperwork of registration. Others decided to ban big cats but to make exceptions for certain individuals."

The situation around Dallas represents the confusion pretty well, Mr. Trimble says. Dallas County does not allow private ownership of wild animals. Collin County also prohibits private ownership but has a grandfather clause for people who kept wild animals and had a U.S. Department of Agriculture license on the day the ordinance passed. However, they are not allowed to breed the animals, and they have to register.
Tarrant County and Denton County both prohibit ownership.

Out of the 254 Texas counties, 22 decided that anybody can have a dangerous wild animal as long as it is registered, 166 counties ban ownership, a rule that includes shelters and roadside zoos. "I know of many sanctuaries that really should not be where they are," says Mr. Trimble.

About 35 counties have not set up the registration program required by the state, Mr. Trimble says. Regulations in the rest of the counties fall someplace in between.

The law states that people who got their certificate from the county have to send it to the Texas Department of Health within 10 days for notification.
So far, the department has only received eight registrations for a total of 51 animals. Mr. Goodman, the state representative from Arlington, asked Attorney General John Cornyn to issue an opinion reinforcing the law. Mr. Cornyn responded in early September, saying the counties need to take action.

"If they thought there was another way to interpret the law, they now know that this is not the case," says Mr. Trimble. If the counties still don't comply, "we will have the attorney general filing lawsuits against them," says Mr. Goodman. Recently, a man told him that he saw a Bengal tiger and two cubs on a field in Central Texas. "I am sick of hearing stories like this."

Big cat sanctuary

Carol Asvestas runs the Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio. It is a nonprofit sanctuary with 90 big cats. They come there malnourished, one's missing a leg, another is almost bald. They have been chained in basements, kept as guard animals by drug dealers, as props by photographers, as housepets.

In the past two months, Ms. Asvestas has had 60 requests to place big cats in her sanctuary. "Now that some action is taken against the owners, they need to get rid of their animals."

She has to send everybody away unless they are willing to fund the $12,000 cages. And they have to sterilize their animals. "So what do you think people do if I cannot take them? Bring them to the vet and pay for their euthanization?" She doubts it. She worries that if nothing is done, people will set some of the animals free to fend for themselves.

Ms. Asvestas was one of the founders of the American Association of Sanctuaries, a nonprofit group of shelters like hers. Two months ago she resigned. The standards were not high enough, she says. She did not want to be associated with shelters that play with their animals in public view, a dangerous practice that sometimes encourages people to buy the cats.

The existing law is not efficient in stopping the pet industry, she says.

"In some counties, all that breeders have to do is call themselves sanctuaries and keep breeding." She says out of the 300 to 400 shelters in Texas, 75 percent are "pseudo-sanctuaries."

The public is often misled by impressive sounding credentials, such as USDA licenses. To qualify for a license, you must only convince the officer who handles your case that you are a "knowledgeable and experienced animal handler," and that the cage is large enough for the animal to stand, sit and turn around in, says Jim Rogers, spokesman for USDA.

Since tigers have become so cheap, breeders let their animals have cubs two or three times a year to maintain their income, Ms. Asvestas says. The people who buy them may do so with good intentions. They might even think they are saving an endangered species. But their lack of knowledge is dangerous. The gentle behavior of a tiger can be deceptive.

Neither she nor any of her co-workers ever touch the animals - a precaution that few owners take.

Ms. Asvestas says she wishes there were no need for her business. She wants private ownership of big cats to be stopped. Coalition involvement Relief may also come on the national level.

A coalition of animal welfare groups, headed by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and the Humane Society of the United States, is backing the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, a bill introduced in July by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., which seeks to bar the interstate movement of pet bears and big cats.

"It is an attempt to stop the epidemic proliferation," says Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the humane society. "Yet this alone would not be sufficient." He says private ownership needs to be banned on the state level.

After years of controversy, Texas has at least outlawed using big cats in "canned hunts," where the animals are killed in an enclosed area. Mr. Pacelle says he hasn't heard about that law being broken. "But my guess is, it still happens, knowing the nature of the industry," he says. "There are too many unscrupulous people out there."

No matter the purpose, there is no justifiable reason to own a tiger or a lion, he says.
"These are potentially dangerous animals and they belong in the wild, not languishing in a dirty cage in someone's back yard," he says.

"A tiger in a community is a time bomb. It is not the question, if there will be a fatal incident, but when."