Sunday, January 25, 2004

Surry County teen-ager seriously injured in tiger attack

Surry County teen-ager seriously injured in tiger attack

Sunday, January 25, 2004
By Sherry Wilson Youngquist

A 14-year-old Surry County girl was mauled by a tiger and seriously injured less than two months after a tiger killed a10-year-old boy at his uncle's ho me 40 miles away in Wilkes County. The teen-ager was inside a pen taking photographs of a 200-pound tiger owned by her father when the cat attacked her, authorities said. The girl, whose name was not released because of medical-confidentiality laws, was first tak en to Northern Hospital of Surry County by her father, then transferred to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Authorities would not release her condition or details about her injuries, only saying that her condition was serious. Sheriff Connie Watson did not re turn phone calls. The attack happened about 9:15 a.m. near the family's mobile home on Palmer Road in the Lowgap
community in northwestern Surry County, authorities said. "There were four tigers. She was inside a pen with one of them," said John Shelton, the director of emergency services in Surry County. "Three of the tigers were shot by the owners, and one was shot by animal control."

The Surry County Sheriff's Office and animal control are investigating and refused to name the family. A man who came to the door at the residence declined to be interviewed. Deputies later were summoned to the area when a man threatened a television crew with a shotgun. Buddy Shackelford, who lives next door, said that the girl's father has been dealing in exotic animals, including monkeys and a zebra, for some
time. One tiger had been on the property for about three years, and the other three tigers had been there for about seven months.

"For myself, I wouldn't have them. You couldn't have given them to me. But I didn't object to him having them," Shackelford said. "It wouldn't harm the neighborhood in any way. He had them contained and all that. They've never caused any trouble. They won't cause anyone any trouble now." Shackelford said he heard the attack yesterday and
ran next door to see if he could help. Neighbors, he said, feel bad for the family. "It was just a freak accident," he said.

In December, C.J. Eller, 10, was killed by a 400-pound tiger in the Wilkes County community of Millers Creek as the boy shoveled snow near the animal's cage. The tiger pulled him inside and mauled him to death. The incident has prompted Wilkes County officials to consider strictly regulating or banning tigers, lions, bears and other exotic

There is no statewide law about ownership of tigers or other animals not native to the state, and county and local governments set the only existing regulations. The majority of counties in Northwest North Carolina do not have an ordinance about exotic animals. Federal law regulates owners of exotic animals only if they breed, sell, exhibit or transport the animals. Nationwide, 19 states prohibit owning big cats and other dangerous exotic animals. An additional 18 states require permits or have a partial ban.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 5,000 to 7,000 tigers are privately owned in the country. The number of tigers in the wild worldwide is estimated at 5,000. After the fatal mauling in Wilkes County, members of the Surry County Board of Commissioners began pushing for an ordinance that would ban exotic animals. A
discussion had been scheduled for the board's next meeting Feb. 2, but some county officials said after the incident yesterday that they should have moved faster.

"I regret that we didn't adopt this ordinance sooner," said Commissioner Jimmy Miller, the chairman of the board. "They're wild animals, and nobody c an handle them. We can't handle them, and the people who own them can't handle them. Then nobody should have them." Two weeks ago, the Davidson County Board of Commissioners approved reviving a moratorium on most exotic animals being brought into the county. Forsyth County bans ownership of wild animals.

Woman is injured by tiger in Gentry
By Serina Wilkins Staff Writer
Posted on Wednesday, November 10, 2004

GENTRY — A tiger pulled the flesh off the right middle finger of a woman at the Wild Wilderness Drive Thru Safari in Gentry on Saturday.

A Bengal tiger injured Angela Pruitt, 36, of Vian, Okla., when she placed her hand in its cage, according to a report from the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

BSCO deputies Paul Bevilacqua and Mark Garrison responded to the incident. Pruitt told deputies she turned to her boyfriend to tell him to be careful and the tiger bit her hand.

The tiger removed the flesh from Pruitt’s finger. She was taken to Siloam Springs Memorial Hospital and was referred to Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville for treatment. Pruitt’s condition is unknown because of the hospital’s protection of patients’ privacy.

Pruitt admitted she was drinking that afternoon, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

On Tuesday, the owners of the safari refused to comment on the woman’s injury or provide safety tips for visitors attending the park. The park is northwest of Gentry.
Loose lion shot, killed in Ft. Wayne

Associated Press
February 1, 2004

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- A 150-pound mountain lion that had escaped Saturday night from its owner's car following a minor traffic accident was shot and killed by police after it became agitated and tried to jump on an officer.

Tom Rhoades, a spokesman for the Fort Wayne Police Department, said the cat was hiding in the bushes of a residence when an animal control officer fired several shots of a tranquilizer gun and it became agitated and tried to jump on a police officer.

Police then fired two shotgun rounds, killing the cat about 11 p.m., Rhoades said.

The mountain lion's owner, Gary Dutcher of Fort Wayne, was returning from a veterinary hospital about 6:30 p.m., after receiving treatment for the four-year-old cat's injured tail. The cat, named "Samson," was riding uncaged in the vehicle when Dutcher was involved in a minor accident and his car slid off the roadway.

When Dutcher opened one of the car's doors to check on the cat, it bounded out of the car and into the night a couple miles from Dutcher's home.

Although the cat had been mildly sedated during its visit to the animal clinic, it was fully awake by the time the search began, said Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control Director Belinda Lewis.

Scott Charters, an Indiana Conservation officer, said the mountain lion was tame, yet it was still dangerous. "It may be a pet but it's still a wild animal," Charters said.
Louisiana News - Pet leopard attacks owner
The Associated Press
2/10/04 2:02 AM

PORT SULPHUR (AP) -- A Port Sulphur woman was attacked by her pet leopard but survived after her brother-in-law killed the cat with a shotgun blast, the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office said.

Julie Miles, 33, was undergoing surgery at West Jefferson Medical Center for cuts to the face and head inflicted by the 3-year-old male black leopard, said her mother, Shirley Alesich. She had raised the leopard since it was a cub.

Miles was inside the backyard cage at her home Monday petting the approximately 100-pound cat for about five minutes, and was just about to leave when "he got hold of her," Alesich said.

Miles' 14-year-old son heard his mother scream and called Alesich, who lives down the street, Alesich said.

The Sheriff's Office received a frantic 911 call from Alesich at 3:08 p.m., and within a minute a deputy arrived to find the leopard with the back of Miles' head inside its mouth, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Maj. Charles Guey.

The deputy hit the cat with two shots, causing the animal to release Miles. But when the leopard crouched again to attack the woman, the deputy shot the cat again, Guey said.

The leopard stopped but still didn't collapse until the victim's brother-in-law, Jimmy Saunier, arrived with a shotgun and killed the leopard with one blast, Guey said.

The family expressed surprise at the attack since the leopard, named Jovani, had always been gentle in the past.

"I can't believe he did this," Alesich said.

Alesich said Miles purchased the leopard from a man in Georgia.

"She got all the right papers and was cleared for keeping him before she got him," Alesich said.

Alesich said the animal was kept in a well-secured cage about 10-by-10-feet, and nine-feet high, and ate raw chicken necks. She said it wasn't feeding time when the cat attacked.

The parish health department collected the animal and will test for rabies this morning, said Ray Ferrer, who oversees the department.

The test would have been done as a matter of course, but is particularly significant after the discovery of rabies in a wild boar last week in neighboring St. Bernard Parish, leading authorities there to ask people to call about animals acting strangely.


Man killed by pet African lion

Associated Press

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ill. (AP) -- A Hardin County man who kept exotic animals was apparently attacked and killed Thursday by a pet African lion, authorities said.

Al Abell was apparently changing the bedding of the lion's pen when he was attacked, Sheriff Carl Cox told The Paducah Sun.

According to Cox, Abell's wife returned to the couple's home near Elizabethtown in southeastern Illinois shortly before 6 p.m., saw the lion out of its pen and called the sheriff's office. Deputies killed the lion and then discovered Abell lying nearby, according to the newspaper.

Abell was taken to Hardin County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:37 p.m., Coroner Roger Little said. An autopsy was scheduled for Friday, he said.

Cox said he visited the property about three years ago with state officials to make sure the Abells had the proper permits for the tigers, wolves and other exotic animals the couple kept on the property. He said he believed the lion that attacked Abell was a cub at the time of that visit.

Jeffrey Bonner, the president of the St. Louis Zoo, said Abell's death illustrates just how dangerous wild animals can be.

"Even after centuries of breeding, you still can't eradicate behavior that's natural for them," he said. "Lions hunt for their meat and kill it; it's what they do. To think that an owner of any big cat, even after several years, can really domesticate them is, of course,

Posted on Thu, Oct. 28, 2004
Dead cougar likely had an owner

The Wichita Eagle

A mountain lion was found dead shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday night in Shawnee County.

Authorities with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks said the young animal showed signs of being pen-raised.

"It was a young one, only 50 to 60 pounds, and had been declawed and its canine teeth had been filed down," said Rob Ladner, Region 2 law enforcement supervisor for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Ladner said a preliminary exam also showed that the animal had been dead for several days before its body was dumped in southwest Shawnee County, near 89th and Auburn Road.

Because a KWP officer had been on that road about five hours earlier, officials believe the mountain lion had been dumped there to appear that it had been hit by a vehicle.

"We have not been able to verify if this animal belonged to a few people in the area who have permits for mountain lions or if it might have belonged to someone who was keeping one illegally without a permit and then dumped it there," Ladner said. "They did try to make it appear like the animal was crossing the road."

Authorities determined the mountain lion had no broken bones -- which would have been expected in a vehicle death. There were no gunshot wounds or bite marks.

Although the last confirmed wild mountain lion kill in Kansas was in Ellis County in 1904, another wild mountain lion was found dead in Oklahoma this past June, 40 miles south of Arkansas City -- apparently struck and killed by a train.

And earlier this year, there were unconfirmed reports of a mountain lion spotted on the KU campus.

KWP authorities said Wednesday that there are some privately owned mountain lions in Kansas, and they occasionally escape or are let go.

At a meeting today in Atchison, the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission will discuss regulations restricting or prohibiting the possession of mountain lions.
Officials search for Tarzan's tiger, loose near Loxahatchee
Associated Press

LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. - Nightfall Monday brought a temporary end to the ground search for a 6-year-old tiger that escaped earlier in the day from the home of an actor who played Tarzan, officials said.

Deputy sheriffs and state game officials set up a perimeter around their search area and plan to start beating the bush again at daybreak Tuesday, said Willie Puz, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The search area is about a half mile wide and two and a half miles long.

Searchers planned to use an infared-equipped helicopter during the night, hoping to spot the big cat so it could be stopped with tranquilizer darts, Puz said.

"It could just go back home on its own, and we're hoping for that," Puz said. "It could just lay down and go to sleep."

The tiger was reported missing around 3 p.m. from the home of Steve Sipek, who played Tarzan under the screen name Steve Hawkes in movies made in the late 1960s's, said Paul Miller, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

When the first deputies arrived on the scene, the cat jumped on top of their car, Miller said. Puz said searchers on the ground spotted the cat several times into the evening, but were never close enough to dart it.

People nearby were asked to remain indoors for their safety and the safety of the cat, Puz said earlier.

"There's no such thing as a tame wild animal," he said.

Sipek has another tiger, two lions, a black leopard and a cougar on his property, the Palm Beach Post reported. The cats, mostly castoffs from zoos, are usually kept in a mazelike series of interlocking cages.

The 5-acre property is about 15 miles west of Palm Beach. It is bordered by other similar sized estates and mini-ranches, many with livestock. Lion County Safari and the swampy Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge are a few miles away.

In February 2002, a 750-pound tiger mauled a woman who was helping Sipek during a photo shoot at his compound. She was bit on the head.

Let's not forget: Tigers inherently dangerous

By Janis Fontaine, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2004

The summer of 2004 might well become the Summer of Bobo. The nation was captivated by the story of the Siberian-Bengal tiger that lived and died in rural Loxahatchee. Steve Sipek, Bobo's owner, has been publicly criticizing everyone for his loss. Everyone except himself, that is.

First a vindictive ex-girlfriend unlocked doors of the compound where Sipek lived with Bobo and several other large cats. Then a mysterious intruder must have unlocked the front door of Sipek's home.

Sipek is looking for a scapegoat to blame for his loss. He ought to take a look in the mirror.

The people who are quick to call the Fish and Wildlife personnel "murderers" are showing their ignorance about animals and about people. The Fish and Wildlife people are conservationists who work hard to improve the relationships of man and animals in this environmental wonderland we call Florida.

The criticisms include "Why didn't they tranquilize Bobo?" The answer is that the officers would have if they could have. What were they supposed to do, ask Bobo to wait a minute while the tranquilizer takes effect?

Another criticism: How could the officer have felt threatened? He was many feet away. The answer to this question lies in the biology and behavior of a big cat. The folks ready to chastise Fish and Wildlife have most likely never tried to face down an animal three or four times their size. We should all try to put ourselves in the officer's shoes, and we need to stop thinking of Bobo as just a big "kitty cat."

Here are some tiger facts:

• The night vision of tigers is six times better than that of humans, but the tiger's most developed sense is its hearing.

• Tiger stripes are like human fingerprints; no two tigers have the same pattern of stripes. If you shave a tiger, he'll still have stripes.

• The Siberian tiger is the largest of the subspecies with an average length of 9 feet 8 inches and an average weight of 540 pounds.

• Tigers like to feed on pig, deer and buffalo but will also eat smaller prey such as rabbit and fish. On average a tiger can eat up to 60 pounds of meat at one time.

• Unlike most cats, tigers love water and are excellent swimmers.

• A tiger's canine teeth can grow up to 3 inches long and would be capable of crunching through the vertebrae of any creature on this planet.

• The average cat can jump -- vertically and horizontally -- six times its body length. The average human can barely jump twice his or her body length. "Tigers can leap more than 30 feet through the air onto unsuspecting prey," says Wild Discovery's Guide to Your Cat. The puma, with its long hind legs, holds the top spot: Puma can jump more than 40 feet. The world record holder in the long jump (and keep in mind, they get a running start) jumped 29 feet 4.5 inches in 1991.

• The fore limbs of a tiger are more powerful than the hind limbs for grabbing large prey.

• Conservationists estimate that tigers kill about 50 people each year.

I don't deny that Sipek had a unique and very special bond with his Bobo. I, too, am saddened at the loss of the beautiful animal. But that relationship should have produced a more responsible means of keeping Bobo and the community safe.

A tiger is a deadly killing machine. If Sipek had left a loaded gun on the table of his unlocked home and someone came along and used it, whom would we blame then?


Woman attacked by African lion in Liberty Township

Gazette Staff Writer

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP -- Lisa Peters, 28, of Bowman Lane, had to be transported by helicopter to Columbus after she was attacked by a female African lion Friday evening.

Peters' father, Charles Peters, owns two African lions, a male and a female, which he keeps on his property. Ross County Sheriff Ron Nichols said Peters had the necessary federal permits to own the lions, which are housed in separate cages.

Investigating officer Deputy Sam Johnson reported Lisa was petting the lion through the cage, a common family practice, when the lion bit her right arm and would not let go. According to the police report, Lisa attempted to get the animal off by spraying it with a garden hose she was holding. When this further incited the lion, Charles shot it twice in the head.
Further information on Lisa's condition is unknown at this time, although Johnson said the arm did not appear to be severed when he arrived on the scene. Liberty Township emergency medical service responded to the scene, along with the Ross County Dog Warden. The sheriff's office was unsure of what hospital she was transported to.

Because Charles had permits for the lions, no charges will be filed. The fate of the second lion is unknown at this time.

(Cahoon can be reached at 772-9367 or via e-mail at
Swansea woman arrested on charges of keeping exotic pets in home

(Lexington) July 14, 2004 - Animal control officers made an unusual find in a Lexington County home. Agents seized several cats, including cougars, from the Swansea home of 37-year-old Abbie Lynn Cochran.

Cochran was arrested for keeping the animals as pets. She was held at the Lexington County Detention Center before a judge set her bond at $7000. She posted the bond and was released.

Animal control took away a total of three adult cougars, two bobcats, and two cougar cubs. It's illegal to have the animals and Cochran is being charged under the county's exotic animal ordinance.

Rebecca Britton, a family friend, says the cats are more than just pets to the owner, "They've raised these animals since they were babies, and by them taking them away it's like they're taking away their children."

Joe Mergo with Lexington County animal control says they weren't willing to take a chance with public safety, "We can say they might never get loose. They might never hurt somebody. But we're not willing to take that chance."

Cochran got into trouble in 2002 because she had two lions as pets. One got loose and roamed the neighborhood. She was fined $400.
Published: Jul 29, 2004
Modified: Jul 29, 2004 3:57 PM

Snow leopard reported missing in Kentucky


SHEPHERDSVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Attempts to capture a declawed snow leopard that escaped its owner's home this week have been unsuccessful, and the owner says he is afraid someone will hurt the endangered animal.
The 2-year-old leopard, owned by Tim Peveler, is white with black spots. Being declawed lessens the chance that it would harm people or other animals, said Mark Marraccini, a spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Officers and biologists with the department were combing the area near the caretaker's home just east of Shepherdsville. They set traps to capture the 50-pound animal without harm but had not caught it as of Wednesday night, Marraccini said.

Snow leopards, an endangered species, are native to the mountains of Asian countries including China and India, and they're also common in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Peveler said Wednesday that he most fears that someone will harm the animal. He said he has searched for it exhaustively since it escaped Tuesday night.

The leopard grew up in Peveler's care and is comfortable around humans, Marraccini said. It's uncertain what the animal would eat if it gets hungry, he said. It likely wouldn't challenge a dog since it has no claws.

Peveler said the leopard is one of several animals he keeps on the property. He has kept exotic animals for 30 years, he said.

"This isn't a business," Peveler said. "We're a licensed facility, and we deal with only other licensed facilities. We're just here to help preserve the species."

But Marraccini said that the Department of Fish and Wildlife hasn't found any record that Peveler has a wildlife transportation permit from the state, which he said would be needed to bring a snow leopard into Kentucky.

Marraccini said he was unsure who would get custody of the animal if Fish and Wildlife officials capture it.

If you spot the snow leopard, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife urges you not to approach it. Call the department immediately at (800) 25-ALERT.

Two tigers killed at exotic-animal confinement
By: Jerry Engler December 16, 2003

A second tiger was killed by Marion County Sheriff Officer Sgt. Jeff Soyez in the early morning hours Friday after a 1 a.m. call for help from its owner, Chris McDonald, at the place where he confines his animals at 40th and Timber.

Sheriff Lee Becker said the male tiger apparently became difficult to handle because its female mate was killed earlier in the week.

Recent developments with McDonald and his animals-which include tigers, lions, cougars, bobcats, leopards and a dog-wolf hybrid-began Thanksgiving week when officers raided the place on suspicion of methamphetamine drug production.

As a result of that raid, Becker said, John Mayden, also called the operation's lion tamer, is in the Marion County Jail on a charge of attempted manufacturing of methamphetamine.

Becker said McDonald, who was released on his own recognizance pending further action, is charged with possession of anhydrous ammonia in an unapproved container, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of methamphetamine, improper disposal of animal carcasses, and improper disposal of hazardous and household wastes.

In addition, Becker said, McDonald may face further charges brought by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the licensing agency for his animal operation, and Marion County due to sanitation and alleged animal cruelty.

The public is asked to be on the lookout for the shepherd-wolf hybrid, which is believed to be tame, because it fled, Becker said, after being attacked by one of the tigers.
USDA and Kansas Wildlife and Parks, which has authority over the portion of animals native to Kansas, were called into the case after the raid when Soyez discovered the animals hadn't been fed or watered for awhile, were malnourished, severely dehydrated and underweight.

Becker said there was also concern for the animals' welfare because of their proximity to the poorly kept anhydrous, and "you can imagine there might be a concern for human welfare also," he said.

Becker called in David Brazil, Marion County sanitarian and zoning director, because of the poor sanitation, including deteriorating carcasses of deer and cattle, which were used to feed the animals.

Soyez estimated that animals which should have weighed 300 to 400 pounds weighed around 200 pounds instead. They were panting and had hair falling out, he said.

The USDA called in Colorado veterinarians; their laboratory reports were not available as of Monday night.

Becker said there were originally 27 animals. USDA confiscated three and two have been shot and killed, which leaves 22 still at McDonald's location. Becker said other animals, including a load of 33 tigers, had arrived but not been unloaded. Owners of those tigers apparently expected the animals would be wintered at McDonald's location.

Becker is grateful for the response from experienced animal hunters and officers when the first tiger was killed Dec. 9.

He said apparently McDonald placed an unclear 911 call that was received in Harvey County, then transferred to Marion County, reporting a tiger loose.

Becker said such "tame" animals are dangerous because they are used to life in a cage.
"They are scared, so they will attack or kill whatever is in the way with little provocation," he said.

Becker notified schools, school bus drivers and area residents of the danger. He brought along veteran hunters from Marion with heavier weapons, Rocky Hett and Scott O'Dell, to assist with a possible tiger hunt.

He was concerned that tall weeds around the McDonald property might provide cover for the tiger. Becker said there also is a lack of secondary fences to help contain animals.

"The threat was very real," Becker said. "We called all the deputies in anticipation of digging in on a cold, rainy night under horrible logistics with a frightened animal moving very quickly. I was glad we had four-wheel-drive vehicles for response."

Deputy Dan Rosine, a Peabody resident who was off-duty, and Peabody Police Officer Jim Philpott heeded the calls, and were the first officers at the scene at 3:48 p.m.

By that time, the officers said, McDonald had the animal contained in a "wolf pen" and was feeding it chickens. But he said the pen was inadequate to hold the tigress.

McDonald told the officers the tiger hadn't left the property, but had attacked the wolf hybrid as well as two other dogs.

Rosine had his personal rifle with him, and allowed McDonald to kill the tiger with it.
Becker said he was concerned with animal handling procedures such as leading tigers with leashes through three-foot panel wall enclosures to trailers for warmth at night.

He continues to work with Brazil and County Attorney Susan Robson on the case as well as cooperating with USDA and KWP.

The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)
April 28, 2002 Sunday