Monday, July 26, 2004

2006 and prior

Big Cat Attacks

Shooting of escaped tiger justified, agency says in report

Posted on Mon, Jul. 26, 2004 Herald Staff Report

A state wildlife officers issued a report today that concluded an officer used sound judgment and complied with the agency's procedures when he fatally wounded an escaped Bengal tiger named Bobo on July 13 in Loxahatchee.

After the death of the escaped, 600-pound tiger, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received so many death threats that employees who were not sworn officers were urged not to wear their uniforms.

The incident set off public outcry from people who are calling the shooting ''murder,'' including the tiger's owner, former Tarzan actor Steve Sipek.

The critical incident review issued today was described by the agency as a routine measure to determine if an officer followed agency protocol during a high-profile event and whether the FWC should change current policies.

According to the news release from agency spokesman Willie Puz, ``The tiger escaped from its compound at Loxahatchee July 12, and remained at large for 26 hours before FWC officers moved into position to tranquilize the highly agitated and disoriented cat. Three previous encounters with the escaped animal failed to return it safely to its owner, despite the owner's attempts to calm the tiger.

'On the fourth attempt, the tiger lunged toward an FWC officer while the tranquilizer team sped to the scene, and the officer fired five rounds to end the threat to himself and other officers at the scene. `` `People have second-guessed the officer from an emotional vantage point,' said FWC Capt. John West. `But place yourself in the officer's position. You're face to face with a 600-pound tiger. The cat is hungry, disoriented and agitated. The tiger turns to you, pins its ears back, bares its teeth and moves toward you. You have a fraction of a second to decide what action to take. What would you do?'

``In a similar situation at the Knoxville Zoo in 1974, an escaped tiger killed a veterinarian, even after the veterinarian had hit the cat with a tranquilizer dart. Tranquilizer darts, even with the appropriate dosage and a direct hit, take a minute or more to take effect on an animal that can break a human's neck with one swipe of its paws.

' `There should be no mistake about these large, carnivorous predators,' said Lt. Col. Don Holway, deputy director of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement. 'These are not pets that can be treated like a house cat. These are dangerous animals, capable of killing a human. They do not have control over their innate, basic instincts. This should be clearly obvious in light of the documented attacks that have occurred.' ''

The incidents listed by the agency in its report include:

• Orlando -- In 1977, a female lion cub was seized from an unlicensed individual and turned over to a permitted handler in the Orlando area. Three years later the same lion attacked and killed the handler, while the handler fed the animal.

• Miami -- In 1993, a zookeeper entered the paddock area of an exhibit thinking he had secured all the animals. A tiger appeared from the moat area, about 50-60 feet away. The keeper attempted to retreat to safety, however, the tiger quickly closed distance and attacked the man, resulting in his instant death.

• Webster -- In 1996, an FWC officer saved a man from an attack by a tiger. The tiger had pounced on the man, in a paddock area, knocking him to the ground and critically injuring him. The man remained still and the tiger left him on the ground while it paced 20 feet away. The tiger occasionally moved to the man and pawed at him. The officer, armed with only his service pistol, maneuvered a vehicle between the two and successfully rescued the handler.

• Alachua -- In 1998, while attempting to maintain control of a tiger, an assistant slipped and fell. The tiger attacked and killed the man.

• Alachua -- One month later, the same tiger attacked and killed the owner. She had raised the tiger since birth.

• Bushnell -- In 2001, a tiger attacked and killed a maintenance worker who was completing repairs on an adjoining cage. The animal lunged at a small hole in the chain link separating the two areas. This tore the fencing open and allowed the tiger to gain access to the area where the man was working.

The agency's statement continued:

``Meanwhile, a criminal investigation into conditions that led to the tiger's escape from its compound still is in progress to determine whether the cat's owner was negligent in keeping the animal in unsafe conditions. Investigators will turn their findings over to the State Attorney's Office for review.

``This was the third time dangerous large cats have escaped from the compound owned by Steve Sipek. On the two previous occasions, the state wildlife agency managed to return the escaped animals safely. ``In another incident the same tiger attacked a woman and crushed her skull inside Sipek's compound. The victim survived. Sipek is one of three people in Florida who have permits to possess extremely dangerous cats as personal pets. The FWC no longer issues such permits but allows current permit holders to retain their pets.''

It was May 28 when an ordinary Friday evening turned into a life or death situation for Lisa Peters. Peters, 28, of Bowman Lane , had to be transported by helicopter to Columbus after she was attacked by an African lioness her father, Charles Peters, kept on the property. Lisa said "I had been over there so many times and petted her," she said. "Nothing bad had ever happened before, so I thought why should it?"

She almost lost her right arm when Sheba , a beloved family pet, took hold of her and would not let go Sheba began yanking Lisa, slamming her against the cage and pulling her arm from its socket.

With nothing else working, Charles did the only thing he could at that point. He grabbed a shotgun and fired two shots into Sheba . The first, Peters said, only seemed to anger the animal, causing her to jump further back into the cage with Lisa's arm still in its mouth. However, the second shot killed the creature, and Lisa was finally freed.

After giving Simba to an animal sanctuary Charles has decided to give up on exotic animals as pets.

"My dad said he would never own a big cat again because of what happened to me," Lisa said.

Tiger man jailed after being late for court

Associated Press Writer

March 4, 2004 , 6:06 PM EST

NEW YORK -- Antoine Yates, who has been indicted on charges of keeping an alligator and a tiger in his Harlem apartment, was jailed for several hours Thursday after he arrived late for court.

State Supreme Court Justice Budd G. Goodman said he called Yates' name at 10:10 a.m. and the defendant did not respond. Yates entered the courtroom sometime within the next hour and Goodman ordered him jailed.

When Yates' case was called again shortly before 4 p.m. , Goodman scolded the defendant's lawyer, Raymond Colon, for not showing up at all on Thursday morning. When Colon said he had a morning court appearance, the judge said, " N ext time, call. We have a phone."

"The other problem, counselor," Goodman said to Colon , "is that your client was not here on time." Colon apologized for himself and for his client, but he said Yates showed up at the courtroom at 9 a.m. , waved at the court officers, and left.

Goodman scheduled Yates' next court hearing for April 8. "If he's 30 seconds late," the judge warned Colon , "he'll stay in jail until this case is concluded."

Yates, 36, and his mother Martha, 68, are scheduled to be tried together on a 13-count indictment that charges them with reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, possession of a wild animal, and failing to exercise due care to protect the public from wild animals and reptiles.

Both, currently free without bail, face up to seven years in prison if convicted of reckless endangerment, the top charge in the indictment.

Prosecutors say that at various times eight children _ four who were relatives and four foster children _ lived in the Yateses ' apartment in Harlem 's Drew Hamilton Houses between April 1, 2002 , and Jan. 31, 2003 , while the animals were there.

Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Saland confirmed for Goodman that Mrs. Yates was offered, but had rejected a plea deal that would have given her a term of probation.

Copyright © 2004, The Associated Press | Article licensing and reprint options,0,538286.story?coll=ny-ap-regional-wire

UPDATED: 12:40 pm EST February 20, 2004
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Florida Wildlife agents busted a group traveling with
lions, tigers, snakes and alligators Friday for not having a permit for the
dangerous animals, according to Local 6 News.

An anonymous tip led agents to a "type of traveling circus show" at the
Daytona Beach Flea Market where trailers were found filled with the animals.
Inside one of the vehicles authorities discovered 10 tigers, 1 bear and a
lion. Alligators and snakes were also found.
A handler of animals said he has a class 1 permit but it was under his wife's
name who was not present.
Local 6 News reporter Tarik Minor said the permit owner must be on location
when dangerous animals are involved.
Officials are trying to determine how to house the animals Friday.
Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

Red Wing man convicted of having too many tigers
Updated: 02-20-2004 08:17:01 AM

RED WING (AP) - A jury found a Red Wing man guilty of violating a
zoning ordinance for keeping up to eight Siberian tigers at his rural

Grant Oly will be sentenced next month for two counts of violating an
ordinance that limits to three the number of exotic pets that can be kept on
agricultural property in Goodhue County.

County authorities reported that five people have been bitten by Oly's

Last year, a judge ordered one tiger that bit a 31-year-old pregnant
woman on the wrist to be euthanized.

The people bitten - four of whom were teenagers who worked with the
tigers - testified during the five-day trial.

Prosecutors say Oly was acquitted on two public nuisance counts
stemming from the bites, probably because the jury didn't believe the bite
victims represented a "considerable" number of people.

The cats were part of a business Oly ran called Tiger-Zone, which
advertised the sale of tiger cubs on a Web site. To legally keep four or
more tigers, he needs a conditional-use permit from the County Board.

Cougar spotted in Lake County

By Lee Filas Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted February 14, 2004
Lake County animal control officials are investigating sightings of what might be a cougar near Independence Grove Forest Preserve by Libertyville.

Animal control spokeswoman Karen Ross on Friday said several motorists on the Tri-State Tollway have reported seeing a cougar near Buckley Road or near the Des Plaines River, not far from Independence Grove.

She said cougar sightings have been phoned in on three different occasions between late January and early February.

"The forest preserve has been contacted and has taken precautions because of it," she said. "In addition, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been contacted and are investigating the matter."

Cougars, also referred to as pumas or mountain lions, are the fourth largest cat in the feline family. They once were more common in Illinois, said Tim Schweizer, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources.

"There are no wild cougars in Illinois. They were removed sometime around the turn of the 19th century," he said. "This was most likely either a pet that escaped or was released from its home."

Ross said the calls were investigated for being a hoax but were deemed to be legitimate. She said one caller knows the difference between a cougar and a bobcat, a more common wild feline in Illinois.

"Usually, calls like these turn out to be a bobcat or a coyote or something," she said. "However, the most recent caller has family and frequents Canada, where cougars are prevalent. She would know what a cougar looks like."

That caller, Arlington Heights resident Patricia Jason, who reported the cougar on Monday, said she has witnessed wild cougars up close in Canada.

"I know what I saw," she said. "It's not a bobcat or a coyote or anything like that. It was a cougar. It actually stunned me when I saw it."

Ross said the duty to try to capture the animal has been turned over to the state.

"We do not have the ability to bring in an animal of this size," she said. "But, after three people have phoned in sightings of the cougar, then, yes, we believe it's a possibility it's on the loose."

She said anyone who sees the animal should stay clear of it and immediately call animal control at (847) 949-9925 or their local police department.

"Please, do not approach it," she added. "We aren't sure what it is, but if it is a cougar, do not go near it. Just call the authorities."

Cougar: State responsible for catching wayward feline

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, naive."

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Wild animal ban right step for state


Lions and tigers and bears mix poorly, even dangerously with people. The Legislature should recognize reality and ban ownership of many wild animals.

The risks to humans -- the public and owners -- are considerable. No matter what precautions are taken, these animals can be trusted to be themselves: wild.

Las Vegas star Roy Horn, with decades of experience with big cats, nearly died when a tiger attacked him. A pet tiger killed a child recently in North Carolina, where another tiger also injured a child. On Monday, a pet leopard clamped its jaws around its owner's head, letting go only after being shot twice. The Louisiana woman was hospitalized in fair condition.

Even when animals don't attack people, the infections they carry can. Monkeys occasionally spread herpes B, which can cause grave complications in humans.

Lawmakers have made considerable progress on House Bill 1151, which would ban ownership of many wild animals. They've pared the list, eliminating lynx, bobcats and servals. Their owners would have five years to find alternate living arrangements for them.

That's acceptable, with the understanding that further extensions may be needed to avoid euthanization or separation of animals from good homes. A better plan would be a registration system, allowing current pets to be kept indefinitely, as the bill's key supporter, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, first envisioned.

Keeping exotic animals in unnatural conditions in homes and enclosures can be uncomfortable for these "pets" and life threatening for people.

Woman Attacked By Pet Leopard

Tuesday February 10, 2004

A leopard raised from a cub by a Port Sulphur woman attacked its 33-year-old owner Monday, clamping the woman's head in its jaws until a sheriff's deputy wounded it with three shots and her brother-in-law killed it with a shotgun blast, the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office said.

Julie Miles 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. Miles was transferred to West Jefferson by ambulance from Plaquemines Medical Center.

Miles had been inside the backyard cage at her home in the 1400 block of Paula Drive 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, who was listening to music inside their home, 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.

Until now, Guey said, such an attack was unheard of in Plaquemines Parish.

"We have had attacks by dogs, but this is the first time I know of in my 27 years that anyone in this parish was attacked by an exotic animal like this," Guey 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.

Wayne Knabb can be reached at or 504 826-3335. Walt Philbin can be reached at or (504) 826-3302

Leopard was like 'a baby' to Port Sulphur woman

Wednesday February 11, 2004

By Michelle Krupa
West Bank bureau

PORT SULPHUR -- Between laying down pitchers of beer and platters of stuffed hamburger steak at a tavern near Deadman's Lane on Plaquemines' lower coast, Julie Miles showed off the photograph of her baby.

From beneath a glass frame, Jovani stared out, his coat of solid black fur glimmering as he lounged on the floor of his chain-link cage in Miles' Port Sulphur back yard. He was her pride, the 100-pound leopard, and the countless smudged fingerprints on the frame's glass showed just how she adored flaunting him.

"The way she loved that cat, anyone who came in here would hear about it," said Pam Berthelot, who works with Miles at River Baron's Bar & Grill in Buras. "It was like her baby."

But for as much as Miles' friends and neighbors indulged her near-constant bragging about the 3-year-old leopard, some said Tuesday that they were not shocked by news that the animal clamped its teeth on the back of Miles' skull Monday afternoon, nearly tearing off one ear and ripping the flesh from her scalp before sheriff's deputies and her brother-in-law shot it dead.

"You can't keep a wild animal locked up like that and think it ain't going to bite you," Berthelot said.

Surgery on face, head

Miles, 33, was in fair condition Tuesday night at West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero, where she underwent surgery Monday for cuts to the face and head, relatives said.

Meanwhile, rabies tests on the leopard were under way at the state Department of Health and Hospitals laboratory in New Orleans, and results were expected today , said Ray Ferrer, Plaquemines Parish Health Department superintendent.

Authorities also were trying to piece together whether Miles, whose neighbors and friends have insisted she has proper paperwork on the leopard, broke any laws by keeping the animal in a 10-by-10-foot makeshift cage behind the converted trailer where she lives with her 14-year-old son.

The incident was reminiscent of the Oct. 3 attack by a 7-year-old white tiger on Las Vegas magician Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy, said Laura Maloney, executive director of Louisiana's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Horn was severely wounded, unable to breathe on his own because of a puncture hole in his neck.

"Big cats often attack their owners," she said, adding that such an assault often surprises them.

'A horrifying scene'

Such was the response of Miles' friends and neighbors, who recalled watching her walk Jovani on a leash when he was a kitten and seeing him ride in her truck. He was declawed, they said, but not neutered.

On Tuesday they recounted the scene at Miles' house the day before, in which a deputy "described a horrifying scene (with) half of the lady's head engulfed in the leopard's mouth," said Maj. John Marie of the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office. "It was just ripping at her."

The deputy, who responded after Miles' son and mother called for help just after 3 p.m., shot the leopard three times in the hindquarters and stomach. "That's the only shot he could take," Marie said.

Miles' brother-in-law, who lives nearby and came running when he heard her scream, finally pointed a shotgun at the animal. It fell with a single blast to the head.

The mauling left Miles' left hand bright red with blood, witnesses said. Police wrapped a towel around her head to slow the bleeding and, some said, to keep her long blond hair from further tearing the flesh from her skull.

But Miles, who grew up on Paula Drive just down the block from her home, was conscious after Jovani was shot and walked unassisted to a squad car that sped her toward a community hospital, witnesses said.

Friends worried about how she would react when authorities told her Jovani is dead. That thought, more than any memory of struggling to free herself from his grip, certainly would fracture her spirit, they said.

Miles spent years trying to get a leopard from a Georgia breeder. She spent $2,000 to secure the proper licensing to keep Jovani as a pet. She fed him raw chicken necks and high-protein exotic cat food, and she spent hours playing with him, even after taking the restaurant job recently to supplement her work at the local post office.

She was always glad to take visitors to her back yard to see Jovani, but she knew he did not like children and kept them away, said Paul Hingle Jr., who lives across the street. And though she loves all animals, she seemed to love Jovani most of all.

"That cat was her pride and joy," he said. "It was like her other kid. It was like a kind of trophy, only she didn't kill it; she let it live. I know she's going to be upset about that cat being shot."

No laws against cats

It is unlikely charges will be filed against Miles for keeping a wild animal in her back yard as a pet, Maloney said.

She said the state has no laws prohibiting ownership of exotic cats, though some parishes, including Orleans and Jefferson, ban the practice.

But the federal Department of Agriculture is looking into why Miles had the leopard, and she could be fined if licensing violations are uncovered, an agency representative said.

Lynn Bourgeois, a veterinary medical officer with the federal Agriculture Department, said Miles would have had to register the leopard with his agency only if she had been breeding, exhibiting, selling or performing research on the animal.

"If it's indeed just a pet, we can't touch her," he said.

Plaquemines Parish has a cockfighting law that prohibits anyone from keeping "any wild, exotic, ferocious, dangerous or vicious animal for display or for exhibition purposes . . . for the purpose of fighting or training to fight."

Though it doesn't address keeping wild animals as pets, the law is meant to be a "preventive measure so wild animals won't be in residential neighborhoods," Parish President Benny Rousselle said. It sets a maximum fine of $500 and 60 days in jail for violators.

Still, parish officials may have a hard time sanctioning Miles. If she says she wasn't keeping the animal for display or fighting purposes, it would be legal for her to have it as a pet, Maloney said. "That's how I would read that."

But regardless of the law, a leopard "is just not an appropriate pet to have in your back yard," said Dan Maloney, the Audubon Zoo vice president and general curator.

Most private exotic pet owners are ill-equipped for keeping a wild animal, he said.

"You're dealing with animals, even animals raised from the earliest ages by people, that still have the potential to act like wild animals," he said.

"Just a leopard's tongue is rough enough to scour flesh from bone."

Staff writers Sandra Barbier, Amy Blakely, Rob Nelson and Karen Turni Bazile contributed to this story.

Michelle Krupa can be reached at or (504) 826-3785.

Hidden camera investigation:

Dangerous animals at local mall, fairs

6NEWS Investigators 11:15 AM EST on Friday, February 6, 2004

Dangerous animals and not enough safety precautions could be coming soon to a fair, festival or a mall near you. And you would expect that if it is at the mall, then it's got to be safe.

The Investigators would tell you that that is not so. They found that a privately-owned zoo that goes on tour has a history of breaking animal health and safety rules and may be putting the public at risk.

6NEWS Investigator Jeff Sonier tried to talk with the zoo owner and he didn't want to. Steve Macaluso warned the 6NEWS cameras to stay away.

"Turn the camera off, sir," Macaluso said. "I'm gonna take the film out of your camera..."

But then when 6NEWS Investigators turned off the camera and turned on the hidden camera they found that a five dollar bill got them really close to the animal.

It costs only $5 to pet a live tiger at the mall in Gastonia. For $15 more they'll even let you pose with the animal for your own personal photo.

Our 6NEWS hidden camera shows customers of all ages attracted to the tigers and lions with no cages. But is all of it really safe?

Sgt. Larry Lingafelt with Gaston Animal Control says they're about 140-pounds and either Bengal and Siberian tigers that are kept on a leash and attached to a heavy wooden table.

But what animal control officers weren't told at Eastridge Mall is that the Charlotte Metro Zoo's animal photo sessions at the mall were cited by the United States Food and Drug Administration back in June for restraining a 150-pound tiger only by a leash that was loose, while the tiger was lying next to a customer.

And two months ago they were cited for having an inadequate number of experienced handlers to ensure public safety.

Reggie Horton with Gaston Animal Control says he didn't know anything about the violations with the USDA.

The county's animal control chief and Gastonia's head of code enforcement saw the reports on a 6NEWS camera for the first time.

They watched the camera showing handlers actually step away from those customers while photos were snapped.

The camera shows that for a moment it's just the customers and the tiger, nobody else.

And the video shows how the supposedly tame tigers are also powerful and unpredictable.

USDA guidelines even warned the Metro Zoo that public contact with certain dangerous animals may not be done safely under any conditions, in particular with big cats more than three-months-old.

The handler of the tiger in the video says he probably weights about 150 pounds, but the handlers admit these big cats at the mall are twice that age, and then some.

After a customer asks the handler about the tiger's age, she replies, 'Seven and a half months.'

Then the customer asks how much bigger the tiger is going to get and the handler replies, '700 pounds.'

The size and weight is technically too large and too old to have direct contact with the public.

Dee Dee Gillis with Gastonia Code Enforcement says it doesn't seem as though they have much authority over them.

"It would be nice to get that type of information," she says.

In another video 6NEWS got from the Cabarrus County fair in Concord, a mother is holding an infant while she rubs a pet tiger very close to the baby and herself.

Charlotte Metro Zoo's tiger photo sessions were also cited in Sept. for risking harm to the public.

The USDA inspector writes one girl was even instructed to hold the tiger's head under its chin, all while the tiger's leash was not connected to the metal safety loop on the table.

"We were surprised. We didn't realize any violation had taken place. That was the first we heard of it," says Aimee Hawkins with the Cabarrus County Public Information Office. "We do not plan to have them come back to the fair."

At the state fairgrounds in Raleigh, promoters of a kid's expo tell 6NEWS they didn't know either. Their Metro Zoo photo session was written up for the same loose leash. The report cited 'risk of harm to the public.'

At the Zoo itself in Rowan County inspectors found two tigers up to 200 pounds each in a chain link enclosure not tall enough to safely contain the cats' size and jumping ability.

The Zoo owner, meanwhile, told us off camera his tigers are tame and that his photo sessions are safe for customers. He claims the federal inspectors are unfairly singling him out, writing him up for minor violations that other zoos get away with.

But the curator of mammals at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro says for safety's sake, lions and tigers ought to be in their natural surroundings, with people watching from a distance.

Back at the mall the tiger handler is telling customers that the tigers love being petted.

But at photo sessions in malls and county fairs too many people are too close to animals that are too unpredictable.

"Those behaviors are innate," says the curator. "The animal is still going to stalk and attack. As an adult, even as a young cub, you cannot teach it not to be dangerous."

And despite all those inspections, all those potential risks to public safety that nobody knew about, the USDA in Washington tells the Investigators they have no set number of strikes against a facility before they take action and nothing in the law that requires reporting those risks to the public.

Watch the video:

Cat fight in Legislature over exotic 'pets'
Owners are growling about proposed ban

By M.L. LYKE Monday, February 9, 2004

SEDRO-WOOLLEY -- The Siberian tiger, 750 pounds of striped, jungle-stalking royalty, dwarfs the man who pets him through sturdy fencing. The cat can't purr, so he chuffs, little whoofs of greeting.

"You're hungry, aren't you, Timber?" asks owner Mike Jones as the big cat -- one of an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 privately owned tigers in America -- rubs a massive head against the wire.

Grant M. Haller / P-I
Mike Jones, who lives near Sedro-Woolley, built a 6,000-square-foot pen for his tiger Choi Hu. He fears lawmakers won't stop at the big-cat ban.
They've been together a long time, man and beast. Jones bottle-fed and raised Timber and his 475-pound female companion, Choi Hu. When they grew too big to be inside the house, he built each cat a deluxe 6,000-square- foot pen, with $25,000 worth of fencing.

So the tiger man is none too happy about a bill in the Legislature that would ban ownership of such exotic animals.

"If they get by with that with the big cats, what will be next? Selectively picked dogs they'd like to see people not own?" asks Jones, who has a U.S. Department of Agriculture exhibitor's permit and hopes to build a wild-cat sanctuary on his 11-acre spread.

A number of Washington cities and counties already ban or restrict keeping wild animals, including Pierce and King counties and the cities of Everett and Bellevue. Okanogan County just adopted a ban on exotic species in response to a feud between a woman with a pet lion and a tiger and neighbors who said they feared for their safety and couldn't sleep for the hair-raising roars.

But outside spotty local regulation, there's no overriding law on exotic animals in Washington, and some state legislators think there should be. At least two dozen states have such bans or restrictions.

"It is very clear that ownership of these animals has created a real risk to human health and safety," said the sponsor of the state bill, Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek.

Under House Bill 1151 -- which sponsors hope to get moved onto the Senate floor soon -- owners of exotic animals would have five years to get rid of their unusual pets. Then, unless an extension were approved, they would have to "send them to a sanctuary, euthanize them or move out of state," said Jennifer Hillman, legislative coordinator for the Progressive Animal Welfare Society of Lynnwood, which introduced the bill.

It's the fourth time around for exotic-pet legislation in this state. But bill sponsors say a rash of news stories -- what wild-animal owners call "bad press" -- has heated up the issue across the country.

Recent headline-makers include a New York man with a quarter-ton tiger he kept cramped in his Harlem apartment, and Las Vegas magician Roy Horn of "Siegfried and Roy," who was pounced upon by a tiger in front of a horrified audience. In North Carolina, two well-publicized tiger attacks in the last two months -- one a fatal mauling of a 10-year-old -- have prompted new discussions of a ban.

Owners of exotic animals in Washington have lobbied hard against the proposal, which would prohibit owning such animals as tigers, lions, cougars, bears, wolves, alligators and non-human primates.

And the bill has lost some of its bite as it has moved through the legislative process. That includes expensive enforcement provisions, which would be difficult to apply; with no registration system, the only way to trace exotic animals may be if they escape or cause concern.

Several animals have been dropped from the bill, including iguanas, non-venomous snakes and, recently, most medium-size wild cats, such as lynxes, bobcats and servals -- cats not permitted as pets in Seattle. "We couldn't convince state legislators they were as dangerous as they are," said Hillman.

She cites the case of a Bainbridge Island woman whose serval -- a tawny, spotted African wild cat with oversized ears -- saw her toddler running across the room and pounced, grabbing the girl by the throat. Luckily, her daughter was OK. The cat was turned over to PAWS.

"That's how we got into the issue," Hillman said.

Grant M. Haller / P-I
Peter Harrett shows off a caracal, a cat found in Asia and Africa. He says private owners are the best hope for saving some species. Others argue that profit is the main motive of such breeding.
The exclusion of medium-sized cats doesn't appease Peter Harrett, a vocal opponent of the legislation.

"It's still a crummy bill," said the lumber-import business owner. Harrett keeps some 40 breeding wild cats in pens at his 5-acre property outside Arlington. He and his wife, Traci, sell the pricey kittens -- $2,500 for a Siberian lynx, $1,250 for a bobcat -- to buyers worldwide via the Internet.

Inside their USDA-inspected pens, big, sleek, sinewy cats with strange tufted ears, striking markings and watchful green and golden eyes let loose a low guttural rumble of moans and mews, growls and grunts, as Harrett talks about the attempt at legislating exotic animals.

"As long as the animals are in good pens, are not jumping over fences and eating neighbors, people should have the right to own whatever pet they want," said Harrett, who argues breeders of wild animals are helping save threatened and endangered species.

"Tigers will be extinct in the wild before 2020 if there's a bill opposing people keeping them in their backyards, homes, ranches, farms or breeding facilities like ours," he said. "The last best hope we have ... is for them to be domesticated."

Opponents dismiss such arguments, countering that the genetics of such animals are rarely pure and that, in any case, owners are not breeding them to return them to the wild, but to be sold for profit as house or backyard pets.

Some bill supporters would put "pet" in quotation marks. Wild animals are just that, they say: wild.

Grant M. Haller / P-I
A lynx peers from a cage on the Arlington-area property where Peter Harrett breeds exotic cats.
Even when owners bottle-feed them, neuter and spay them, defang them, and declaw them -- an act one exotics veterinarian refers to as "brutal toe mutilation" -- a wild cat's predatory instincts can kick in, especially in an aggressive animal.

"One can attempt to 'socialize' or 'tame' a wild animal by raising that animal among humans," said Hillman of PAWS. "However, that is not domestication, and despite this social interaction, wild animals will always possess their natural instincts and can and will use them at any given time."

Many owners and animal specialists argue that problems are usually a matter of common sense (no human babes and wild cats in the same room) and proper care (feed 'em meat -- organs, bones and all). It's the human, not the animal that makes the difference, they say.

Tiger man Jones has had only one tangle with his cats, when the female Choi Hu threw an adolescent fit. "Big cats give plenty of warning when things go sour. ... You just don't do stupid things -- like turning your back on them," said the Skagit Valley pipefitter, who has owned exotic animals since he was a small boy -- tarantulas, monkeys, skunks, snakes, emus, ostriches.

The attraction of humans to wild animals is a long, often mystifying one.

Douglas Yearout, a local exotic-zoo-avian wildlife veterinarian, said it can be like buying a strange new car. "People can be fickle and faddish."

After 24 years in the field, he has seen wild animals in inadequate caging, nursing babies snatched from moms to imprint on humans, and inexperienced owners who too quickly lose interest in their rare and time-consuming pets. It's why he, too, supports a statewide ban on raising, importing and selling certain exotic species.

But he doesn't like the idea of a heavy-handed political ban with poorly thought-out regulations that can't be enforced. He also doesn't want to see animals destroyed, and he doesn't want responsible owners to lose their animals.

He has seen the passion humans can have for a wild animal.

Owners of wild cats like that edge, what they call "spunk." True, their charges open doors and refrigerators, lap up all the water in the toilet, take a flying leap to join them in the bathtub, and, if not declawed, climb curtains and destroy wallpaper. One woman said her wildcat runs off with her clothes whenever she gets dressed.

But the pampered predators also snuggle, frolic and can be trained, learning to play Frisbee and walk on leashes.

Pat Lovelace, a Snohomish County mortgage broker, paid a bargain $1,500 for her serval, named Jasa. "My friends said, 'Oh my God! It's going to eat you,' " she said, laughing.

Now she and her dachshund, house cat and little kitten sleep with Jasa, who has been through dog obedience training and has learned to sit, stay and come.

Lovelace said she's fully, always aware that Jasa is wild. "You can never forget it," she said. "When a 20-pound cat leaps eight feet in the air over your head -- that's a big deal."

But owning one, she said, is like nothing else.

"It's absolutely awesome."

P-I reporter M.L. Lyke can be reached at 425-252-2215 or

Forest Service Plan Reduces Lynx Protections

According to a recent story in the Denver Post, the U.S. Forest Service admits that their plan for the endangered lynx could "decrease the amount of habitat available for snowshoe hare, an important lynx prey, reduce the number of lynx denning areas, and ." [ ] The draft plan will loosen limits on biling,

Groups Launch Program to Protect Panthers

On January 31, The Florida Panther Society and The Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge launched a new campaign called Panthers & Pavement, which will focus on educating the public about the dangers of roads and vehicles to the endangered Florida panther. The organizations honored the University of Florida veterinary medical staff for their heroic, but ultimately unsuccessful, efforts to save the life of a panther found, after a hit-and-run, by Betty Ogelsby and Pete Sardina, who are also receiving awards. Defenders of Wildlife provided bumper stickers, road activist's guides and other educational materials about panthers and transportation. For educational materials, please contact the Florida office at or 727-823-3888. Last year ten panthers died on Florida roads, the highest number recorded since 1976. One panther has already been killed in a car crash this year on January 11. Learn more about the impacts of roads on wildlife:

Saved from a 'rescue':

How cool is it to trade a dump in Southern California
- there's a phrase that often is redundant - for the friendly confines of the
Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary?

Just ask Misty and Pouncer, two Siberian-Sumatran cross (that's their
breeding, not temperament) tigers who were set to arrive at the zoo Wednesday.
But don't converge on them today. Acting zoo Superintendent Jocelyn Smeltzer
wants them to have some quiet time to settle in.

Misty and Pouncer were among 77 lions, tigers and leopards that were seized
last year from the owners of the not-so-aptly named Tiger Rescue in Colton.

Dozens of other animals were found dead at the so-called animal sanctuary and
the home of the owners - John Weinhart and Marla Smith - who face animal cruelty
and child endangerment charges in Riverside.

The zoo's Jill Giel said Misty was found living in a 3-by-3-foot cage, and
Pouncer was chained up nearby. Both were suffering from malnutrition and mange,
Jill said, but the nearly year-old, 150-pound girls are in good shape now.

They have been living at the Fund for Animals Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
in Ramona, San Diego County, while Folsom zoo workers remodeled the old bear
exhibit for them.

* * *

The Bee's Bob Walter can be reached at (916) 608-7448 or

County may impose daily fines on big cat owners

Posted on Sat, Feb. 07, 2004
By Max B. Baker
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

FORT WORTH - The Tarrant County district attorney may seek an injunction allowing the county to charge up to $2,000 a day per animal against the Roanoke private zoo that owns banned dangerous wild animals.

This week, a jury convicted Zoo Fare owners Tom and Brandy Lease -- who keep four white tigers, three gold tigers and a cougar at their Roanoke compound -- of seven misdemeanor counts of violating the county's ban.

While the jury hit the Leases with fines totaling $70, the least it could assess, the county government code allows the county to charge up to $2,000 a day for each animal until they are removed.

Debra Dupont, senior counsel for the district attorney's fiscal unit, said she is working on an injunction motion and plans to ask the Tarrant County Commissioners Court for permission to take action against the Leases.

Tom Lease said the couple will "do what is legally in our best interest" to fight the injunction request because it would effectively put them out of business.

"That doesn't even seem like something that the United States should be able to do. It is not what America is about," Lease said. "We would do whatever we would have to do to stop that."

In 2001, county commissioners banned keeping wild animals such as lions, tigers, bears and gorillas. The move followed a new state law that required counties to register the animals or ban them.

The state law includes 11 exemptions that covered research facilities, zoos, circuses and college mascots, among others. The law also states that anyone who keeps the animals has to have $100,000 in insurance.

The Leases, who have worked from Roanoke for nine years, are well-known in local schools, where they would take tiger and lion cubs for seminars and photo shoots.

The Tarrant County Sheriff's Department began investigating Zoo Fare after the mother of a Keller elementary school student raised questions about a visit to her child's school in August.

The Leases argued that their license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows them to exhibit wild animals. Tom Lease also said that his reading of the county's own rule exempts his operation.

In an Oct. 1 letter, the district attorney's office told the Leases that they were violating the ordinance and had until the end of the month to comply.

The first citations were written in November.

"The county has done what it can to work with this guy," Dupont said. "We were trying to give them plenty of opportunity to prove an exception or move it."

Tom Lease has blamed the couple's legal problems on the political pressure exerted by animal rights groups. His attorney plans to seek a new trial in county criminal court.

During this week's trial, Lease and his attorney repeatedly referred to the USDA license required to exhibit the animals. To get the license, a facility must meet certain criteria for the care and exhibition of the animals.

It was also suggested that the USDA license superseded and exempted Zoo Fare from the county ordinance. The ordinance says the animals are prohibited except as otherwise "specifically permitted by state or federal law."

Dr. Daniel Jones, the regional supervisor for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the department's license does not prevent a state, county or city from adopting ordinances concerning wild animals.

He said his agency licenses individuals or businesses that use certain animals. Those regulations deal primarily with the care of the animals, Jones said, and not the public's health and welfare.

It is not uncommon for private zoos or individual owners to wave the USDA license in the face of local police, Jones said.

"If they have an ordinance that says they can't have such an animal or activity and someone uses a USDA license to say we can do that, that is bogus," he said.

The Leases' business was cited by USDA inspectors in 1998 and 2001 for having improper record-keeping and veterinary care and for failing to have the animals under the control of trainers during exhibitions, an agency Web site says.

In 1998, the Leases paid a $1,000 fine but neither admitted nor denied any violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act.

A lawsuit filed in 2000 in Tarrant County also shows that a Dallas woman's arm was mauled when she visited the Leases' compound. The tigers were owned by someone else but housed in Roanoke.

Eventually, the woman settled out of court with the other owner, Lease said. The lawsuit against the Leases was dismissed, records indicate.

Max B. Baker, (817) 390-7714

Posted on Fri, Feb. 06, 2004

Couple's big cats violate county law, jury decides

By Max B. Baker
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Brandy and Tom Lease of Roanoke watch proceedings during their trial Thursday in Justice of the Peace Court in Hurst.

HURST - In a case closely monitored by animal rights groups across the state, a Tarrant County jury Thursday convicted a Roanoke couple of violating a ban on owning dangerous wild animals.

Tom and Brandy Lease, who keep four white tigers, three gold tigers and a cougar at their 5-acre Roanoke compound, were convicted in Justice of the Peace Court of seven counts of violating the ban adopted in 2001.

But after hearing about how well the Leases cared for the cats -- and how they believe their license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture exempted them from the ban -- the couple was assessed only a $70 fine and court costs.

Maximum punishment could have been up to $200 on each count. The couple received its first citation in late 2003 after a mother complained.

Devastated by the verdict, the Leases said the future of their company, Zoo Fare, is uncertain. They said they will file an appeal in county criminal court but that this could be the beginning of the end their business.

"There's no way to just up and move a $100,000 facility," Brandy Lease said during a impromptu news conference in the lobby of the northeast Tarrant County subcourthouse in Hurst.

"It is an unfair interpretation of the law," said Tom Lease, adding that they were being prosecuted only because of the political pressure exerted on the county by animal rights groups. "This is all politics."

Randy Turner, a board member of the Texas Humane Legislative Network, a group that promotes the humane treatment of animals, dismissed the Leases' claim of a conspiracy and praised the jury for upholding the law.

"This tells us that the county order that protects the citizens will be enforced, and we can sleep better at night," said Turner, a Fort Worth lawyer. His group helped write the 2001 state law that spawned the county's ban.

In 2001, Tarrant County commissioners instituted a ban on keeping wild animals such as lions, tigers, bears and gorillas. It followed a new state law that required counties to either register the animals or ban them.

The state law included 11 exemptions that covered research facilities, zoos, circuses and college mascots, among others. The law also stated that anyone who kept the animals had to have $100,000 in insurance.

The Leases argued that their federal license allows him to exhibit wild animals. Tom Lease also said his reading of the county's law exempts his operation.

"We are in compliance with the court order 100 percent," he testified, calling the citations "totally ridiculous."

The Leases' trial brought rare flash as well as unusual statewide and national media attention to Justice of the Peace Sandy Prindle's courtroom. Typically, Prindle's small claims and traffic ticket cases go unnoticed.

On Thursday, local TV station cameras filled a corner in the courtroom, and a New York documentary filmmaker was allowed to tape the proceedings and wire the defense and prosecution attorneys with microphones.

Tom Lease, tanned and sporting a ponytail, constantly smiled at the jury. His wife, Brandy, wore shoes and a belt adorned with leopard spots. Her purse had an animal print and was adorned with a feathered boa.

The Leases are well-known at local schools, where they would take the tiger and lion cubs for educational sessions and photo opportunities. Their cats also have appeared in Victoria Secret and Mercury Cougar ads.

The Leases talked about living in Roanoke for nine years without incident. One sheriff's deputy testified that his children had been around the cats, and another deputy, after writing a ticket, brought a co-worker out to see them.

Yet prosecutors Bobby Mills and Robert Browder said the USDA license does not preclude the state and county from passing extra regulations or bans.

"It boils down to this court order. It says you can't have them, and that's all there is to it," Mills said.

Tom Quinones, the Leases' attorney, predicted they would win on appeal.

During the trial, Tom Lease pointed out that the USDA license could not be transferred. When asked about his company's future, he simply shrugged.

"It's unknown," he said.

Carol Asvestas, director of the Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio, said operations like Zoo Fare indiscriminately breed their cats to produce cubs for their money-making photo shoots.

But when the cats get too big, they are then shipped out to other, probably less-suitable facilities, she said. Asvestas said her group has taken in 609 wild animals in nine years -- 110 of them big cats.

"It is a commercial entity being disguised as something educational," she said.

Max B. Baker, (817) 390-7714

Wildlife sanctuary endangered

By Rochelle Brenner, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 6, 2004

THE ACREAGE -- For nine years, Mark McCarthy and his team of volunteers took care of Natasha, a rare snow leopard with respiratory problems.

But two weeks ago, the roughly $3,500 annual cost to treat the cat's illness proved too high for the nonprofit McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary in The Acreage.

"This medication wasn't working," said McCarthy, the director. "If I had the money, I probably wouldn't have put her down. I could've tried to get some type of other medication. She's extremely rare, very beautiful and it's very sad it had to come to that."

Faced with increasing costs for expenses such as insurance and food, McCarthy is worried his budget will force him to lose more of the native and exotic big cats, birds and reptiles he supports and rehabilitates.

For 14 years, the work was largely paid for with fees from doing educational programs at schools, clubs and birthday parties. McCarthy has received some help from foundations, but he faces stiff competition for grants from larger sanctuaries backed by big companies, like the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter, founded by Peter Busch of the Anheuser-Busch family.

After McCarthy does shows at The Breakers, the Ritz-Carlton or private parties for children, guests often drive away in their Jaguars without donating to help his.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission relies on people like McCarthy to take in animals when someone calls looking for a home for an injured or neglected animal, commission spokesman Jim Huffstodt said.

McCarthy's work saves taxpayers from footing the bill, Huffstodt said.

For McCarthy, the animals are a "money pit," but they're his life. He said he canceled his personal health insurance and took out a second mortgage on his house.

"It's not like I'm a rich guy," he said. "I'm not buying Rolexes or jewelry. I want my animals. This is all I do. They're my best friends."

Serval Wandering in Neighborhood

OMAHA, Neb. -- The Nebraska Humane Society is looking into a strange cat in Omaha.

Omaha police were called to a house at 301 S. 49th Ave. because neighbors spotted an unusual cat roaming the neighborhood. The animal has been identified as a Savannah Cat (pictured, left) -- a cross between an exotic wild Serval and a domestic cat.

Police said the cat is tame and slipped out an open door when the owner went to get the mail.

The Humane Society said the cat is illegal under Omaha rules, and are going to work with the family to re-home it. (The cat in the photo was a Serval, not a Savannah) 2/04

Rare wild Siberian tiger found dead in Liaoning

SHENYANG, Feb. 4 (Xinhuanet) -- A wild Siberian tiger has been found dead in Manchu Autonomous County of Xinbin, Fushun City of northeast China's Liaoning Province.

It is the first such case in which a wild Siberian tiger has actually been spotted. Previously, there have been only reports about damage done and traces left by the endangered tiger species, but no one has ever spotted a wild Siberian tiger.

Qu Jianjun, head of the wildlife and wild plant protection department of the Liaoning Provincial Bureau of Forestry, told Xinhua that the dead Siberian tiger was discovered by a local forest worker at the foot of a cliff in Xinbin.

The tiger was lying on its side, with its eyes wide-open and its neck almost broken, and one steel rope was stuck in the flesh of the neck. Blood was visible from the chest through to the belly, mixing together with the fur, said witnesses.

Wildlife protection workers concluded that the Siberian tiger might have died from too much blood loss after getting his neck caught by the steel rope planted by hunters, and food shortage could be another reason for its death.

The dead tiger was taken indoors and is being protected by a relevant local department, according to Qu. Enditem 2/04

Pet Mountain Lion Shot

Loose Mountain 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

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.

Mountain lion's owner faces charges

Animal got loose after escaping from car and was shot and killed by police.

By Kevin Leininger
of The News-Sentinel

A return trip from the veterinarian's office turned out to be fatal for a
mountain lion owned by a Fort Wayne man, who now faces charges for causing
the very danger some of his neighbors have feared.
Gary Dutcher was driving his 4-year-old, 140-pound mountain lion Sampson
home early Saturday evening when his white Camaro crashed into a ditch near
Stellhorn and Lahmeyer roads. The animal was not in a cage and, even though
mildly sedated, ran from the car and was found about four hours later hiding
in the bushes near the Hupe Insurance Services, 7011 Stellhorn Road. To
protect the public, members of Fort Wayne's Emergency Services Team
surrounded the area. An animal control officer fired two tranquilizer darts
into Sampson, but police said they were forced to shoot and kill the cat
when it began running south toward some homes.

No one was injured. Dutcher, who could not be reached for comment, was cited
for causing a public nuisance - which carries a fine of up to $2,500,
according to Belinda Lewis, the city's director of animal control. Lewis
said it is unclear whether the law required Sampson to be caged during
transport, but she said a cage should have been used and had been requested
by the veterinarian.

"We did everything we could to avoid killing" the animal, Lewis said. "It's
unfortunate people keep exotic animals in inappropriate conditions. This is
a problem people create. It's hard to say what kind of threat was present;
Sampson had been around humans, but was still a wild animal."

Dutcher has been keeping wild cats for about six years, and last year had
two mountain lions and three servals, or African wildcats. Lewis said the
servals were kept in cages in the garage while the mountain lions - Sampson
and a female, Delilah, were in backyard cages surrounded by barbed wire and
an electric privacy fence. Sampson had been declawed.

Even though Dutcher has a federal permit to keep and exhibit his cats,
Dutcher might have to give them up or move when his home in the 8300 block
of Chapel Bend Drive is annexed into the city next year. City ordinance
prevents residents from keeping exotic or dangerous wild animals.

Some of Dutcher's Stillwater Place neighbors began objecting to his cats as
far back as 1999, complaining about the odor and worrying what might happen
should one of them get loose.

Dutcher, a member of the Midwest Exotic Feline Education Association, told
The News-Sentinel in 1999 he and other members keep big cats to protect
species that are becoming increasingly rare. "They're like children to me,"
he said. "We take very good care of them. I've gone to every length to make
sure everything here is safe. You've got to know how to handle them."

Although some neighbors and city officials have questioned Dutcher's cats,
other neighbors have been supportive in the past. Neighbor Chryl Kelley said
last year she was more worried about running dogs. "(The cats) don't bother
me a bit," she said.

Even back in 1999, however, Dutcher was calling his back yard zoo a
"temporary home," saying he hoped to move to the country so he would have
room for even more rescued cats.

Lewis doesn't think that would be a good idea. As more and more exotic cats
are kept by humans, the danger they pose will only grow, she said.

"You can buy these cats off the Internet," Lewis said. "There are more wild
cats in Texas now than there are in Africa."

Cougar escapes county laws

The escaped cougar police were forced to shoot Saturday evening died
through no fault of its own. The sad event should prod the county to
consider adopting an animal control ordinance that would strictly narrow the
circumstances under which anyone can keep a wild animal.
Such an ordinance is necessary to protect public safety and animals
from careless owners. The threat posed by the 127-pound cat that escaped
from its owner Saturday evening clearly showed the city's wisdom in recently
passing an ordinance partly banning such animals in city limits. The county
should do the same.

The cougar escaped from a vehicle that had crashed into a ditch after
owner Gary Dutcher had taken it to a veterinarian. The animal was roaming
inside city limits when police shot it along Stellhorn Road on the northeast
side. Dutcher lives outside city limits and is therefore not subject to city

Animal control officers and police deserve credit for making a
reasonable effort to capture the cougar alive by shooting it with two
tranquilizers. Belinda Lewis, director of Animal Care and Control, said the
darts used were too small to contain enough dosage to bring down a large
animal fueled by adrenaline. Lewis said authorities did not want the animal
leaving a perimeter they had established to keep it away from residential

"If it had re-entered a residential area, we would have risked losing
it," Lewis said.

Cougars can attack humans, as happened earlier this year in California
when a jogger died from injuries in a mauling. Cougars were once thought to
be too shy around humans to pose much of a threat, but wildlife experts are
reconsidering that belief in the aftermath of increasing attacks in the

Animal owners in Allen County outside Fort Wayne face few local
regulations. Dutcher appears to have legally owned the cougar and several
others he still keeps on his property under a permit issued by U.S.
Department of Agriculture. The animals are also regulated under Indiana law.

A ban on keeping such animals under most circumstances would better
protect the public and the animals than the current regulations. The county
considered a more extensive set of rules a few years ago, but owners of
exotic animals balked and the effort died. John McGauley, a spokesman for
the county commissioners, said they will consider the subject again after
receiving several calls on the subject from members of the public Monday.

The callers are right to be concerned. A law raising the standards for
owning wild animals or banning them altogether from Allen County is needed
before any other animals or the public are endangered again. 2/04

Update: The catfight's over in the Stillwater Place neighborhood.

Actually, it wasn't as much of a catfight as it was a fight over cats. Specifically, they were four large wildcats - one cougar and three servals - that neighborhood resident Gary Dutcher kept in pens in the back yard of his home on Chapel Bend Drive.

Stillwater 's neighborhood association sued Dutcher last week, seeking an injunction to force him to remove the animals. Allen Superior Judge Stanley Levine granted the request Feb. 24, but only after learning the issue is all but over - Dutcher moved the cats to an undisclosed location in Steuben County on Feb. 26, and the bank that holds the mortgage on his home has foreclosed, forcing the property to be sold.

Instead of a confrontation, Tuesday's hearing was a quiet affair that saw Dutcher and representatives of the association's board agree to a preliminary injunction that prohibits him from keeping any more wild animals on his property. Dutcher told Levine he will vacate the home by early April.

Under questioning by Levine and association attorney Dan Mc N amara, Dutcher said he moved the cats to Steuben County under supervision of the Department of N atural Resources and the Steuben County Sheriff's Department. He did not say where they were being kept, but said the facility is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the animals are safe and well cared for.

Dutcher said he still owns the animals.

In the past, he has taken some of them to an amusement park near Angola where they were exhibited to meet the requirements of a federal permit he holds that allows him to have the cats.

The only animals still at his home are two domestic Persian cats, Dutcher said.

In its lawsuit, the association said Dutcher was in violation of restrictive covenants that prohibit homeowners from keeping animals other than dogs, cats or other household pets on their property. Although they were kept in pens in a fenced-in yard and had never attacked anyone, the association's lawsuit said the cats posed a threat to neighborhood residents.

Dutcher lost another cougar Jan. 31 after it got loose from his car after an accident on Stellhorn Road . Police shot and killed the animal after it began approaching homes in the area.

The injunction Levine granted bars Dutcher from keeping any exotic animal not indigenous to Indiana or animals that pose a potential threat on his property while he still owns it. Included on that list are bears, wolves, lions, tigers, cougars, alligators, snakes and venomous reptiles, apes and crocodiles, among others.

Dutcher faces another court date March 20 when he is scheduled to appear in Misdemeanor Court to answer charges he created a nuisance by allowing the cat police killed to escape.

Exotic Cats Found Dead in Rural Otter Tail County

Authorities are trying to determine what killed several large exotic cats and a
camel found dead in rural Otter Tail County. The remains of three or four large
cats, including at least one tiger, were recovered. A dead camel also was found
when officials served a search warrant on the property Tuesday. The dead animals
were discovered in animal pens. A number of animals remained on the property
after the search - including ostriches and possibly some camels. A neighbor had
called authorities with concerns the animals may have been neglected.
Authorities say it's too early to tell whether charges will be filed against the
property owner. 2/04

The owner of an exotic animal farm says the four tigers and one camel found dead on his property Tuesday weren't neglected. "Animals do get sick. Animals do die, particularly in cold weather," Dr. Roy Cordy said Thursday. Tigers at Cordy's YOR Exotics animal farm, five miles north of Pelican Rapids, may have fed on each other, according to records filed Thursday in Otter Tail County District Court.

Local, state and federal investigators found the animal remains after searching the property Tuesday. Officials obtained a judge's signature for a search warrant of the property after Elizabeth Hoadley, who lives south of Cordy's farm, complained she hadn't seen anyone feeding the animals for the previous 10 days. Cordy, who has had the farm more than 12 years, said he has not changed his routine in recent months.
He said he feeds and waters his animals a specific amount every day and there is little left over when they are done. Because his job requires travel and working odd hours, Cordy said he sometimes must do his farm chores in the middle of the night. "I think people, before they make assumptions, I wish they could have just called me," Cordy said.

Cordy wouldn't discuss the animals that were found dead or how long they had been that way but he said exotic animals pose a particular challenge when it comes to maintaining their health. "I've spent up to $6,000 in one year on vet bills," he said. "These exotic animals don't show illness like other animals do. "In the wild, if they show that they're ill, they're going to get preyed upon. So they don't show their illness until they drop over." The dead animals were not immediately removed because the surviving tiger might have considered them her prey and defended them, Cordy said.

After Hoadley's complaint to the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Department, Deputy Marvin Robinson visited the farm, according to the search warrant filed in the investigation.
At first glance, Robinson said he saw a camel that appeared in good health.
The search warrant says Robinson then called Hoadley for more details about her complaint. "Ms. Hoadley stated that there are other camels and a llama and other animals that are normally walking around the compound," court papers say. She also told Robinson that tigers lived in one of the buildings. The deputy then took a closer look and spotted two camels, a llama and another exotic bird.

Court records say: Robinson also found a dead tiger inside one of the buildings. The tiger was lying on its side and covered with snow. In the doorway of another building, the deputy saw a live tiger and the head and hide of a third tiger. "It appeared that the live tiger had eaten the other tiger," Robinson wrote in his affidavit. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took custody of the remains and officials are performing tests to determine how the animals died. No charges have been filed in the case.

There were no signs of animals having been recently fed or watered at the site, Robinson said in his affidavit. Over the last six months, Cordy said he has been in the process of liquidating the farm and finding homes for the animals. The farm still houses a number of creatures, including two camels, a llama, an Asian leopard, five lemurs and some tortoises, Cordy said. Court records say Cordy's home, located across Tamarac Lake from the farm, was sold at sheriff's auction last year and Cordy was evicted from the home last month. The Sheriff's Department said Cordy is cooperating in the investigation and working with the Otter Tail County Humane Society and the Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton, N.D., to care for the animals.

According to a search warrant, here's a partial list of what investigators
found at the farm Tuesday:

- One young male tiger

- Four tiger legs -- two right rear, one left rear, and one right front

- One tiger tail

- One adult female tiger and half of one adult tiger

- Burned bird bones

Before Tuesday's search, the Sheriff's Department investigated two complaints about the farm within the past 18 months, but found nothing alarming during either visit.

The last time the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service inspected YOR Exotics was in December 2001. Cordy's license, which allowed him to buy and sell exotic animals, required a regular unannounced inspection by the agency. Cordy did not renew his license after it expired in November 2003. An inspector visited YOR Exotics five times between May 2001 and January 2003. However, the agency didn't complete four of the inspections. Jim Rogers, an animal health inspection service spokesman, said Thursday that's not unusual. "The requirement is that someone is there between business hours so we have access, but it is more common that there's not somebody at the smaller operations," he said. If the department has reason to believe animals are in danger, it has other means to access the facility, he said.
"Otherwise we'll just come back some other time," he said. Officials conducted an inspection at YOR Exotics on Dec. 20, 2001, and cited Cordy for failing to have an 8-foot perimeter fence around the tiger pens. An inventory of the animals included four ring-tailed lemurs, six tigers, six camels, one sloth, four sugar gliders and a hedgehog.

Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie contributed to this article.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

Pet Tiger Attacks Teenage Photographer

SOURCE: The Winston-Salem Journal

Sunday, January 25, 2004
By Sherry Wilson Youngquist

Surry County teen-ager seriously injured in tiger attack

LOWGAP -- A 14-year-old Surry County girl was mauled by a tiger and seriously injured less than two months after a tiger killed a 10-year-old boy at his uncle's home 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 taken 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 return 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 animals.

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 can 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.

Sherry Wilson Youngquist can be reeached in Mount Airyat (336) 789-9338 or at

Bengal Tiger Fatally Mauls Boy

MILLERS CREEK, N.C. (Dec. 14, 2003) - A woman's 400-pound Bengal tiger fatally mauled her 10-year-old nephew after pulling him under a fence and into his cage, authorities said.

The boy, Clayton James Eller, was shoveling snow Sunday afternoon near the tiger's cage, an enclosure made of chain link fence that had an opening at the bottom so the family's dog could go in and play, officials said.

"This little boy got too close, and it pulled him under the fence," Coroner Howard Laney said.

The boy's uncle, James Marshall Eller, heard Clayton scream and saw it dragging the boy into its cage. Sheriff Dane Mastin said Eller tried in vain to to get the tiger off the boy, then ran and got his gun and shot the tiger to death. But it was too late to save the boy.

The boy's mother, Angela Eller, had left the boy in the care of her sister Ruth Bynum, the tiger's owner, while she went to work, Mastin said. James Eller is the brother of the two women.

Mastin said he wasn't aware of any previous complaints about the tiger.
12/15/03 14:17 EST

Cougar and Cobras

all in a day's work In 27 years, a wildlife inspector captures a chimpanzee, saves starving lions and checks on cougars, such as "Evita" left, in Seffner. "Every day is different," he says. By RICHARD DANIELSON © St. Petersburg Times, published April 17, 2000 -- TAMPA --

With a day of driving and unpredictable encounters ahead of him, Florida wildlife inspector Lt. Dennis Parker quickly checks the gear crammed into his state-issued, dark green Chevy Blazer. He carries two laptop computers, a digital camera, a video camera, a shotgun, a trauma kit (for humans), a tranquilizer gun (for animals), catch-poles, heavy gloves, a radio, a mobile phone, snake-bite kits and a news clip about a guy who, once again, is running an alligator show without the proper permits. On any given day, Parker might have to use all that stuff. In 27 years as a wildlife inspector for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, he has handled cobras, climbed a tree to capture an escaped chimpanzee and saved starving lions from their heroin-addicted owner. Parker was once called out after somebody's cheetah got loose and started chasing bicycles on Davis Islands. Another time a guy took a cougar to the Courtney Campbell Parkway and tried to pick up girls. But those are the exceptions. Parker says most people who keep some kind of wild animal generally provide adequate care for the animals and keep them locked up. It's when something weird or tragic (or both) happens that exotic animals in Florida tend to make the news. In January, Kenya the elephant broke free from her leg chain and killed a member of the Ramos circus family in Riverview. Nine days later, Kenya mysteriously died. "Every day is different," Parker says, and this day is no exception. In eight hours, he will try to track down the owner of an unlicensed elephant, make sure a chain-link cage behind a Gibsonton mobile home won't let the lion inside escape and remind a reptile wholesaler not to bring in any more banned African tortoises. But first, a guy has called and wants to ask him about importing shrimp from Ecuador. A big industry The business of keeping exotic animals for exhibitions and other commercial, educational or personal uses in Florida amounts to roughly a $500-million-a-year industry, said Maj. Kyle Hill, a wildlife commission bureau chief. The state tracks about 8,000 licenses or permits for individuals, businesses or institutions statewide. Florida's regulation of this business goes back to the late 1960s, when the governor's office received thousands of letters about the filthy cages and starving animals at roadside zoos, Hill said. In response, the state created a new position, wildlife inspector, and required its inspectors to have degrees in zoology. Parker, now 51, was hired fresh out of the University of South Florida in the first batch. The state started with six inspectors and now has 12. Parker and one other inspector cover eight counties, including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando. State rules say how big and strong cages must be. They also set minimum standards for care and require anyone who wants to possess certain categories of exotic animals -- including elephants, bears, lions, tigers and chimps -- to have at least 1,000 hours of supervised experience caring for the species. With so much ground to cover, inspectors use both a ticket book and patience to bring animal owners into line. "We deal with the same people over and over and over again," Parker says. "I think most of the people you deal with . . . are going to be receptive to change if you've been nice to them, been fair to them and shown them some consideration along the way." Animal rights advocates complain that the system benefits the owners, not the animals. "You've got these people that are issuing licenses to people that they know are going to abuse animals," said Louise Kahle, a St. Petersburg member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "That's the business: the circus, the zoos. . . . How are you going to regulate that? You don't have the money. You don't have the officers. You don't have the time." Neglect and abuse The U.S. Department of Agriculture also inspects exotic animal facilities, but while the state focuses first on making sure that wild animals do not escape, the USDA's veterinary inspectors put more emphasis on animal welfare. Still, there is some overlap. State and federal inspection reports on more than 90 facilities in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus show that some are told repeatedly to correct the same problems. Although Parker has removed animals from poor living conditions, sometimes temporarily caring for them at his own home, it is typically a last resort in cases of serious neglect or abuse. The USDA's standard for removing an animal is that it must be in unrelieved suffering. Animal rights groups say that both state and federal officials let animal neglect go on too long before stepping in. Violations of the state's law are misdemeanors or civil infractions, although repeat offenses can lead officials to revoke a facility's license. Although Hill has said he will recommend revoking Manuel Ramos' state license if Ramos is convicted of pending charges that he failed to restrain Kenya the elephant, there is nothing to prevent Ramos' son Lance, who is the circus's chief animal trainer, from applying for a license to keep the same animals. A risky business Parker is no stranger to the Ramos family. Over the years, he and other inspectors have been to the family's 10-acre compound in Riverview as well as to a previous location and have written up Manuel Ramos repeatedly for not keeping his animals in large enough cages. But that's not all. In 1982, Parker investigated an incident in which a 65-pound leopard on the Ramos property attacked a 3-year-old boy. Parker said the boy suffered deep wounds to the head and neck. Manuel Ramos' brother, Arturo Ramos, told authorities that the boy had been bitten by a dog. But Parker said wildlife inspectors brought in the forensic dentist who worked on the case of serial killer Ted Bundy to compare the boy's wounds to plaster casts of the leopard's teeth. Arturo Ramos pleaded no contest to culpable negligence and failure to protect the public from wildlife, both misdemeanors, and was sentenced to 12 months' probation and a $400 fine. For Parker, such incidents show that keeping exotic animals is a deadly serious business. But he sees too many people -- not a majority, but still too many -- who don't realize how much time, work and money it takes to provide a wild animal more than the bare necessities for survival. "They put the animal in a cage, give it a board or piece of concrete to lie on, fill the water bowl and throw in a couple of chicken necks every day," he said. "It brings tears to my eyes when I see animals abused sometimes. You can see the pain and suffering in animals' eyes." * * *

Exotic Cat owners discover domestication a difficult job HOUSTON-The number of pet tigers in the United States roughly equals the number in the wild worldwide, an animal rights group says. By TED BOEHM of the Wall Street Journal

Neither spouse in the divorce wanted custody of the pet mountain lion. So when the couple moved out of their house, they left the animal chained to a tree in their back yard. Neighbors alerted authorities, and eventually the cat was carted off to the local animal shelter to be penned in with stray mutts. Big cats--as in lions and tigers and leopards-- are becoming a big problem in pockets across the United States. Ten years ago, one of these beasts would have fetched thousands of dollars in a market dominated by a small number of established dealers and high-end buyers. Now, as prices have dropped to house-pet levels, a new crop of sellers and buyers have emerged, eager to exploit the beasts' exotic allure but ill-prepared to handle them. A classified ad in the El Paso Times recently listed a leopard for $400 that would "bring the wild into your home." Animal Finders Guide, an exotic-pet newsletter, lists big cats of nearly every species for sale. Online classified ads have made these animals something of an impulse purchase.

THE GOVERNMENT doesn't keep count of the big-cat population in the United States. The Roar Foundation, an Acton, Calif., animal-rights group, estimates that pet tigers in the United States number about 7,000-roughly equal to the number living in the wild worldwide. Ownership appears to be most prevalent in the South, especially Texas. But big cats also have fans in the Midwest: Police in Michigan say drug dealers buy them for use as "watch cats." Most owners fall in love with big cats when the beasts are playful cubs. As they get bigger, "people either can't afford them or can't physically handle them anymore," says Sue Neil of the Houston chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Declawing the cats, a safety precaution commonly taken, only makes them more aggressive, critics of big-cat ownership say. One result is that abandoned big cats are becoming a significant burden at some local animal shelters. Houston's SPCA recently began a $250,000 renovation to upgrade its shelter to handle them. Exotic cats aren't the only potentially dangerous animals taking up residence in Middle American households. Macaques, wallabies, and potbellied pigs also are being drafted as domestic companions. The U.S. Agriculture Department focused on felines in a February warning, which discouraged all but "qualified, trained professionals" from owning large exotic cats. Even when the cars are "only playing," the department noted, they can kill. In March, a 4-year-old in Longview, Texas, had his right arm torn off by his uncle's Bengal tiger. The limb was later reattached, but doctors say the child will never regain its full use. Last June, a 10-year-old Yorktown, Texas, girl was killed by her stepfather's pair of Siberian tigers. Experts say the frequency of such attacks is rising.

FANS OF THE BIG CATS as pets say such episodes occur when a small number of negligent owners let children get too close to the animals. Curtis Dugan, 30, a tire factory worker from Madill, Okla., used to breed and sell tigers and still owns three of them. He says he hasn't ever felt in danger. "The best part is being able to add numbers to an endangered species," he says. Wild tigers are endangered, but tigers in captivity are "bred like beagles" in the United States, say Alan Green, an exotic-animals expert at the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit watchdog group based in Washington. Green says a tiger cub sold for $350 at a Missouri auction last spring. "Try finding a golden retriever for that cheap," he adds. Lion cubs, currently less popular than tigers, can be purchased for much less. But caring for them is expensive. Lana Sweatt says she spent $15,000 to build a pen for a pair of leopards and a cougar she and her husband owned when he was stationed at the Army base in Fort Riley, Kan. They spent $175 a week on food for the cats, and say medical care was both hard to find and expensive. When the Army transferred her husband in the fall, Sweatt says she gave the cats away to a zoo in Austin, Texas, and a sanctuary near Tyler, Texas.

THE EXOTIC-CAT TRADE once was the domain of a few dealers who sold to the movie industry and other well-heeled clients. But dealers now are as likely to be small-scale, cash-only operators. Some of them exhibit animals at flea markets or from the backs of pickup trucks. Greg Hayes, a Boulder, Colo., veterinarian who raises big cats for the entertainment industry, says many dealers "pass themselves off as conservationists or educators, when they really don't know anything about raising these animals." The lack of regulation and safety standards in the big-cat trade is creating a public menace, animal-rights advocates say. In the absence of an outright ban on the beasts as pets, activists say, the federal government should require better training for owners. At present, breeders and dealers must be licensed by the Agriculture Department, which conducts periodic inspections. Still, the Agriculture Department has little real authority over the big-cat trade. Federal laws don't prohibit ownership of the beasts. Other than in a few states like Georgia and New Jersey that prohibit big cats as pets, owners face few regulations. Breeders and dealers bridle at calls for tighter regulations. Joe Cruz, a Houston dealer known as "Tiger Joe," says, "Just because one person is and idiot doesn't mean that everyone should be punished."

Uncertain future faces Taiwan's tigers

Animal activists are concerned at the uncertain future facing 22 hybrid tigers currently languishing in cages kept at the back of Ocean World, a popular aquarium theme park near Taipei, Taiwan. The tigers, most of which are around 13 years old, have been kept in captivity for their entire lives. Until recently, half of the tigers had been locked up in metal shipping crates on a disused car park before complaints from animal organizations led to them being moved to join the other tigers kept at the park.

These tigers are the tragic legacy of Taiwan's efforts to breed tigers to supply the trade in traditional Chinese medicine. A ban on breeding tigers was passed several years ago; this requires breeders to keep the tigers in their possession. The resulting conflict between the costs of keeping these animals and the lack of income from them have led to dreadful neglect, with tigers having become unrealizable assets. "These tigers are hidden from public view in a row of individual cages behind a sold wood fence; they are out of sight and literally going out of their minds, with nothing but a barren rusty cage to look at and pace around in. A corrugated iron roof is the only protection that they have from the elements, in a country where temperatures can reach 36 degrees in the Summer."

The Taipei Representative Office in London is anxious to resolve this issue. Unfortunately, the Government has yet to respond to repeated offers of assistance to help provide the tigers with a more suitable home, including establishing a tiger sanctuary in Taiwan. The Government claims that the tigers will be moved to the Pin Tung Wildlife Sanctuary in the next few months, with the first of the tigers due to be moved there in the next few weeks. However, the facility is said to be full to bursting point with the animals that are there already. This means that the quality of life for these tigers may not necessarily be much different from what they endure at present. With little or no information having been made available by the Government, activists remain concerned for the future of these tigers and are calling for a detailed response from Taiwan's Council of Agriculture as to exactly what provisions have been made. 12/03

Fake Fur Will Fly

The Humane Society of the United States has won a new ally in its antifur campaign. Designer Oleg Cassini has teamed up with the group and produced Evolutionary Fur, described as computer generated manufacturing material that feels like the real thing.

Cassini's antifur sentiment dates to the 1960's, when he designed a leopard coat for the then- first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. He vowed to never make another fur garment after learning that his coat spawned a fashion craze resulting in the killing of more than 250,000 leopards.

To see what Evolutionary Fur is all about, log on to the Internet for a live fashion show at Browsers can register online to win a Cassini fake fur. 12/03

Bobcat in Zeeland house sent to new home

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Pam Jarnigan wishes she had been a little more prepared before she came
to Zeeland from her home in Tennessee two weeks ago. She arrived in
Michigan to lay the groundwork for a trucking company that she and her
husband are starting.

Jarnigan had a place to stay and work to do in Michigan, but one small
detail went untouched a detail in the form of a 30-pound bobcat named
"Tinker." Jarnigan has raised the cat since it was 3 weeks old, and it
had traveled with Jarnigan from Tennessee to Zeeland.

Jarnigan, who was staying with a friend on Park Street in Zeeland, said
she began inquiring with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
about getting a permit for the 4-year-old bobcat as soon as she arrived
in Michigan, in anticipation of staying in the area for a while.

To obtain the necessary permit, Jarnigan sought the aid of James
Janson, of the Department of Natural Resources. Without residency,
Jarnigan could not fill out the application. According to Janson,
personal use of an animal such as the bobcat requires that the owner
acquire a "permit to hold wildlife in captivity" from the DNR.

When someone applies for such a permit, said Janson, the number of pets
for the permit should be zero.

However, if the applicant already owns a wild animal, as in the case of
Jarnigan, the DNR leaves room for an explanation and reviews the issue
on a case-by-case basis. Janson said that the DNR wanted to work with
Jarnigan to help her receive a Michigan permit, and did not plan to
confiscate the animal.

After arriving in Zeeland, Jarnigan said she basically brought Tinker
from her truck, into the house, and into the basement. But neighbors
saw the cat and alerted Zeeland police of its presence.

Police Chief William Olney said police received two calls from
neighbors on Jan. 12, saying that there was a large cat at a house on
Park Street.

According to Jarnigan, by the following Monday, police officers were
knocking on the door, inquiring about a "mountain lion."

Jarnigan told officers that there was no mountain lion, but that she
did have a bobcat with her. The cat, said Jarnigan, is just a little
bit bigger than a domesticated cat.

Zeeland, like many municipalities, has an ordinance prohibiting wild
animals in the city.

"Needless to say," said Olney, "that was not what we consider a
domestic cat."

After some checking, Zeeland Police discovered that at one time, the
owner did have a permit for the cat, said Olney, but that permit had
since expired.

Jarnigan said that the accountant who handles her business affairs in
Tennessee was supposed to send the permit renewal payment in June, but
evidently neglected to do so. Tennessee authorities told Jarnigan that
the bobcat was not welcome back in that state, either.

Now, Jarnigan said she has no choice but to buy property in Michigan,
something she may have done anyway, if she wants to get Tinker back.

"Ultimately," said Jarnigan, "it is my fault because I should've done a
bit more inquiring. I just assumed that it was taken care of, which was
my mistake."

When Ottawa County Animal Control came to transport the cat the next
day, Jarnigan put Tinker in a cage and watched as they hauled the
bobcat away.

"In this particular instance," said Olney, "she voluntarily gave it up."

Jarnigan said that at the time she didn't want to cause any problems
for the officers because, "I didn't want to make it difficult to get
her back."

But in retrospect, she said, she felt that the cat was confiscated
illegally, without a court order or a warrant.

"Had they done it legally, I wouldn't have anything to say about it,"
said Jarnigan. She said she felt the way the bobcat was seized violated
her rights.

City Attorney James Donkersloot said it was illegal for Jarnigan to
have the bobcat. "If she didn't have a license, she was violating the
rights of everyone else in the state," Donkersloot said. "They have
laws for a purpose and people should respect the laws."

After Animal Control came for Tinker, she needed to go to a place
authorized to hold her.

Olney said that Zeeland police had Ottawa County Animal Control take
the bobcat to a rehabilitator, not for rehabilitation, but because the
rehabilitator was licensed to have such animals.

Jarnigan was concerned about being able to visit Tinker and asked that
the bobcat be taken to a Muskegon County sanctuary, where she remains

Brenda Pearson, who runs the Muskegon wildlife sanctuary with her
husband Jim, said that basically, she is just babysitting the cat until
it can be returned to its owner.

The Pearsons care for an assortment of animals on their property, from
prairie dogs to a black bear.

"It's well-taken care of and it's a nice cat," said Pearson. She also
said that Jarnigan had visited the night before, with 100 pounds of
meat for the bobcat.

"It's a wild animal, but in my heart, I can see that this animal is
well cared for, it doesn't have to hunt or live in the cold," said

Although Jarnigan is upset by the way the situation has turned out, she
hopes that it can be resolved peacefully. Currently, she is looking
into purchasing land and eventually a permit for Tinker. Blendon
Township and Zeeland Township are two areas in which she might be able
to keep her pet.

"That was my baby," she said. "She and I have been together for four
years that was like my child."

"I am hoping that it can be resolved it was just very, very traumatic
for me and very hard on her because she's been with me since she was
three weeks old," said Jarnigan. "She's pretty stressed."

Bobcat Pet Killed after Biting Person

Recently, another case surfaced in the area involving a bobcat. Dave
Kraker, media relations officer at the Kent County Sheriff's
Department, said that a family in Kent County relinquished a bobcat on
Jan. 22, after it reportedly bit another human. Because the cat wasn't
vaccinated, it had to be euthanized for a rabies check. Kent County had
been following the case of that particular cat, which was illegally
owned, for over a year.