Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 Noah's Lost Ark

Noah's Lost Ark

Check for yourself to see if they meet the sanctuary standards for an accredited animal refuge.

Animal People's December 2005 edition

Who Gets The Money Expose stated:

80% of the money raised by Noah's Lost Ark is spent on fundraising and overhead. The acceptable average is 28%.

Noah's Lost Ark November 2005

8424 Bedell Road
Berlin Center, OH 44401

330-584-7835 Expiration Date: November 2006

Year, State Incorporated: 2000, Ohio

Noah's Lost Ark was cited in July 2003 by the Wise Giving Alliance for either failing to meet the Alliance Standards of supplying insufficient information to enable the Alliance to determine if the standards were met.

Wise Giving Alliance reports on charities are typically updated or dropped every two years.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance Comment

Despite written BBB Wise Giving Alliance requests in the past year, this organization either has not responded to Alliance requests for information or has declined to be evaluated in relation to the Alliance's Standards for Charity Accountability. While participation in the Alliance's charity review efforts is voluntary, the Alliance believes that this lack of cooperation may demonstrate a lack of commitment to transparency and accountability.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance reports on national charities and determines if they meet 20 voluntary standards on matters such as charity finances, appeals, and governance. Without the requested information, it cannot verify if the charity meets these standards. The Alliance does not evaluate the worthiness of the charitable program.


The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company
November 10, 1998
Searchers kill 2nd escaped tiger in thicket near Cut and Shoot

CUT AND SHOOT - The second of two tigers that escaped from a cage in a rural neighborhood was shot to death
Monday by searchers who said they had no choice.

The 500-pound Siberian female, which had eluded searchers for more than 30 hours, was killed by six shotgun blasts after charging toward one of her pursuers in a thicket, authorities said. The animal was killed about one-half mile from the compound that was her home off Waukegan Road in east Montgomery County.

She and a male Siberian had gotten free about 6:30 a.m. Sunday after slipping past the caretaker who had entered their cage to feed them, authorities said.

The male, weighing almost 700 pounds, was shot and killed later Sunday in the yard of homeowner Nathan Miles. Miles said he, his wife and their six children watched from inside their mobile home as the tiger mauled one of their 200-pound hogs before county animal control officer Jim Blount shot the escaped beast four times with a shotgun...

"I don't really care about the hog because a hog can always be replaced," he said. "What concerns me is that one of my kids could have been outside and gotten mauled."

The second tiger turned out to be more elusive as law enforcement officers and scores of gun-wielding volunteers with tracking dogs kept her confined to a 30-acre thicket across the street from Miles' home.

Around 3 p.m. Monday, six shots boomed in the dense woods before a group of searchers emerged with the felled animal stretched across the back of an all-terrain vehicle.

Scott Kurtz, a 25-year-old logger who had joined the hunt, said he was trying to protect himself when he shot the charging creature in the face.

"When I shot her, she just turned around and started running in another direction before the rest of the people in the group finished her off," Kurtz said. "We had her surrounded under a tree and we were waiting for somebody to show up with a (tranquilizer) gun, but she came out charging right at me.

"I just reacted," he said. "I'd rather it could have come out of the woods alive. It's a beautiful animal."

"...It's too bad she had to be killed," he [Sheriff's Lt. Larry Melton] said. "We had spread out and had been trying to get her to move toward a baited trap. When she charged that young man, there wasn't anything else to do."

Melton said the owner of the tigers, Reginald "Lefty" Parr, 47, of Houston, has a federal permit for the two that were killed and a Bengal tiger that did not escape from the compound.

The Associated Press State & Local Wire
April 2, 2001

Animal center closed after fatal tiger mauling

A facility where a trainer was mauled to death by a tiger last week has been closed after operating unlawfully for more than two years.

The center, operated by a company licensed as Safari Wildlife, never received a special use permit from the Clark County Planning Department as required, said county spokesman Jim Foreman.

In November, code enforcement officers notified property owner Andrea Prince that she was required to get the permit.

After she failed to comply, they visited the facility again four days before Eric Bloom, 25, was killed March 25 by a 300-pound Bengal tiger.

"They definitely need a use permit for those animals," Foreman said. "If we went back there next week, and the animals were still there, we would have written citation tickets because they hadn't followed through like they had said they were going to."

Joshua Weinstein, owner of Safari Wildlife, said a chimpanzee, baboon and four other exotic animals were shipped off the property last week to licensed facilities.

Safari Wildlife was licensed in February by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as federal law requires, but the facility never received the specialized zoning required by the county, Foreman said.

The Sun, July 23, 2002
Tiger Mauls TV Game Girl

A TV game show contestant was mauled by a tiger after being sent into a cage full of big cats.

Maria Berrios, 30, was trying to win a car on Chilean TV's Chile Tu Day show by spending three minutes in a cage with two tigers and two lions.

She had to stroke one of the animals but a tiger grabbed her, causing serious head and leg injuries.

Cops charged a circus boss who owned the cats with negligence. TV producers have been slammed as "irresponsible".

Century Newspapers Limited Belfast News Letter
February 7, 2001


AN ANIMAL trainer escaped when he was mauled by a 550lb tiger.

Martin Lacey, 54, was recovering in hospital with bite wounds to his leg and shoulder after Monday's incident.

It happened when he was exercising three fully-grown tigers at his farm near Keal Cotes, Lincolnshire.

A friend of Mr Lacey, Dave Freeman, 52, said: "He was playing with them, feeding them, when he tripped over one of them.

"She instinctively turned round and nipped him on the leg and knee and then the shoulder.

"We always have other people there to help and they shouted and managed to scare all three away."

Mr Freeman insisted that his friend was not in any immediate danger.

"If she wanted to have caused damage, she could have. The last man I know that got bitten by a tiger hasn't got arms any more."

Mr Lacey has been training animals, including tigers, lions and horses, for over 30 years for circus and film work.

He acquired the tigers, all three-years-old, two years ago and was not training them for a specific purpose.

East Lindsey Council is investigating the matter in conjunction with Lincolnshire police.

Agence France Presse, August 13, 2000
Tiger mauls zookeeper to death in China

A 42-year-old zookeeper was mauled to death by a tiger while cleaning the inside of the animal's cage at a zoo near Beijing, local reports said Sunday.

Zhang Guoshong was found lying in a pool of blood by colleagues at the Shijiazhuang City Zoo after they were alerted by his screams, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

The tiger savaged Zhang's left side and then returned to its favourite spot in the cage, the paper said.

Zhang was rushed to hospital but died despite efforts to revive him.

The tiger was given an anaesthetic shot and later died, although zookeepers refused to explain why.

Experts have suggested the anaesthetic was too strong.

McClatchy Newspapers, Inc.
November 14, 1998


Six weeks after killing the trainer who raised it from a cub, a 400-pound white Bengal tiger on Friday mauled and killed one of its owners, a woman who had insisted the tiger wasn't vicious.

Doris Guay was leading Jupiter, a 3-year-old tiger, back to its pen Friday evening when the cat lunged unexpectedly and bit her in the neck. She is believed to have died immediately. On Oct. 8, the same cat killed its trainer, Charles Edward Lizza, 34, with a bite to the neck. Authorities classified the October death as a "freak accident."

The cat was gunned down Friday night by sheriff's deputies 15 feet from where it killed Lizza.

Lizza had been described by Guay's husband, Ron, as the son he never had. Ron Guay was steps away during both attacks.

Agence France Presse
December 21, 2000
Marxist Indian state bans performing animals
India's Marxist-ruled West Bengal state on Thursday banned the use of performing animals by any circus or roadside show.

The step came after a 21-year-old woman was badly mauled by three tigers last Friday while performing with the striped cats at a private circus in the eastern Indian state.

Bengal Forest Minister Jogesh Burman said using animals such as tigers, lions, panthers and bear for entertainment would no longer be allowed in the state.

"The West Bengal government has imposed the ban on using animals under the Prevention to Cruelty to
Animals Act," he said, warning the administration would take stern action against violators.

"If any circus is found using these animals for entertainment, it would be immediately asked to shut down. So would happen to an individual if he uses bear to entertain people on the roadside," he said.

"We just cannot think of wild beasts being caged just to entertain some people. They are born free and I am against restricting them, even in zoos," the minister added.

India's Supreme Court several years ago banned private zoos. Poaching or trapping rare wildlife is also considered a serious criminal offence in the country.

The Associated Press State & Local Wire
November 4, 2000
Pillager man's neighbors aren't big fans of his pet tiger, bear

It's a quiet Pillager neighborhood where several residents say they no longer go for walks because they're afraid of a neighbor's pets. Some parents don't allow their children to walk to the school bus stop anymore, either. But Rick Seidel says there's no reason for his neighbors to fear his unusual critters.

"For a man-eater, she's my baby," said Seidel, as he proudly petted his 275-pound Siberian tiger named Sheqkita, who shares a large outdoor cage with Pooh, a full-grown cinnamon bear, a relative of the black bear. "They're like a brother and a sister to each other."

Seidel bought the tiger and bear five years ago from a licensed game farm in Racine, Wis. The tiger originally came from the Kansas City Zoo, he said. They were born two days apart and Seidel has raised them together ever since they were cubs. He is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to own the tiger and bear and also has a separate license by the Department of Natural Resources for the bear.

But Seidel's neighbors don't care what kind of licenses he has to legally own the exotic animals. They're worried that the animals will get out of their outdoor enclosure, which includes electric fencing. The bear got out this summer, they said, and ended up on another neighbor's deck, scrounging through the garbage.

"A lot of people are scared about it but there's nobody to call," said Alice Mullenix, the only neighbor who was willing to have her name published in The Brainerd Daily Dispatch. "What's going to happen is that someone's going to get mauled and then people are going to do something."

There are 39 children living within less than a mile of Seidel's home, said one neighbor, who won't let her children walk to the school bus stop anymore because of the tiger and bear.

After five years of living next door to the tiger and bear, Seidel's neighbors will be happy to know he is moving, along with his animals, to a home he recently bought near Clitherall, where he owns a bar.

"There are people who think that it's the greatest thing but then there are some who think it's the worst thing," Seidel said of his owning exotic animals.

The Hindu & Tribeca Internet Initiatives Inc.
Tiger kills youth in safari park
BY: By Our Staff Reporter

HYDERABAD, OCT. 19. Eighteen-year-old Mohammed Khaja was mauled to death by a tiger at the Nehru Zoological Park here on Tuesday afternoon when he fell into the Tiger Safari park trying to catch a kite after clambering a 20 ft. wall and a steel mesh atop it.

This is the second such incident in the safari park. Five years ago, a boy entered into it in search of a ball after having a bet with his friends that he would fetch it.

The Zoo Curator, Mr. K. N. Banerjee, said Mohammed Khaja, a resident of Mohammednagar Colony abutting the zoo, fell into the 40-acre Tiger Safari park with thick undergrowth and was almost immediately attacked by the lone tiger which was roaming around at that time. Usually at least four tigers are present in the safari park for the visitors to watch them through fortified vans.

The boy's father, who apparently warned his son against climbing onto the fence, raised an alarm on noticing the youth fall. Several people started shouting to alert the zoo employees. On receiving information, the Curator and his staff rushed to the safari park along with a doctor armed with a tranquilliser gun....

Having been alerted by the commotion, the tiger dragged the youth to a considerable distance into a thick undergrowth. Mr. Shekar Reddy, Assistant Curator, managed to get into the park from outside and located the badly injured youth. The other zoo workers made noises and threw stones to drive the tiger away from the spot. The body of the youth was dragged into a
van with the tiger lurking dangerously close and then transported to the Osmania General Hospital....

But, their brave act was in vain as it was ascertained that the youth had died on the spot. The body had injuries on the head, face and a deep wound on the chest.

The Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Mr. A. V. Joseph, who visited the park, said it was quite tragic that a life was lost due to sheer bravado. ``We have built the wall and mesh to such a height that it would be difficult for the tigers to escape. The parents in the surrounding areas should ensure that their wards do not enter into the safari park,'' he said.

He said the height of the steel mesh would be further increased in addition to an incline facing the outside as well and covered with barbed wire.

Big cats on a short leash
Date: 08-03-2000; Publication: The Christian Science Monitor; Author: David Holmstrom, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Joe Parker points to Bubba, one of his bushy-maned lions resting peacefully in the sun in a large, outdoor enclosure. "Bubba spent a few years of his life in a crack house in Cincinnati chained by the neck," Mr. Parker says.
Minutes later, Bubba sends out a thundering, deep-throated roar that moves through the trees and across the roofs of nearby houses like an express train. Bubba's industrial-strength voice stakes out his territory, a reminder to the other 66 lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, and cougars nearby that despite chain link fences between them, he rules.

But Bubba really doesn't rule at all anymore.

In fact, he and the other big cats in this self-described 40-acre animal sanctuary known as Tiger Haven are for the most part simply fortunate to be alive and well-fed.

Tiger Haven saved the cats from the plight of most captive-bred big cats in the United States. When they are old or in the way, few people want them, and even fewer want to take care of them. "Bubba, and many of the other cats, arrived here unwanted and abused," says Parker.

The extent of abuse among many of the estimated 5,000 to 9,000 big cats in captivity in the US, is in the open now. Journalists have uncovered widespread exploitation and abuse of big cats in zoos, traveling circuses, roadside zoos, and in suburban backyards where big cats live as caged "trophies." And each year, many children and adults are tragically attacked by big cats who remain untamed and unpredictable carnivores despite years of interacting with people.

Marginally protected by the federal Animal Welfare Act, and subject to ever-changing state and local laws, or no laws, many cats become tangled in mistreatment from birth to death. As documented in journalist Alan Green's recent book, "Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species," many zoos sell grown cats as "surplus." (reviewed Oct. 30, '99)

Mr. Green cited an American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) newsletter noting that surplus zoo animals are bought legally by circuses, breeders, dealers, or exhibitors. In turn, the new owners display, trade, auction, or often breed the animals for quick sales to private owners.

Some zoos try to minimize the flow of animals into unknown hands, but because of a lack of local enforcement and sheer numbers, animals often disappear despite the best intentions of officials.

"I've been here at the Minnesota zoo for 16 years," says Ronald Tilson, director of conservation at the zoo, and coordinator of the AZA's Tiger Species Survival Plan, "and we never placed an animal unless we had someone from our facility inspect the site.... We do surplus our tigers and for the most part I think [they] stay with zoos until they die. I can't say for sure that no tigers from AZA's Species Survival Plan have never shown up at a roadside facility. Once we surplus an animal I am not obligated to follow it."

Many lions and tigers, as well as bears or primates, end up in roadside zoos, or pseudo sanctuaries that exploit the animals in the name of the Endangered Species Act. Some are sold in animal auctions. Others are killed in clandestine "canned" (or fixed) hunts offered for thousands of dollars by hunting ranches even though many states have banned such hunts.

As cuddly cubs, tigers and lions first attract paying crowds at the best of zoos. Because few states forbid private ownership of big cats, breeders know that furry cubs can easily charm private buyers, too. Prices for tigers range from $700 to $5,500, and can be bought in some states from breeders licensed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

But many new owners misjudge the level of care and safety needed for an exotic wild animal that grows to weigh 450 pounds or more. As the cats become older, many go from owner to owner in a downward cycle of misery. Local authorities often have to intervene in severe cases with the help of the Humane Society, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), or other animal activist groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Sanctuaries, like Tiger Haven, will accept the unwanted animal, or rarely, an abused animal can be euthanized at a veterinarian's recommendation.

Jennifer O'Conner, a cruelty caseworker with PETA, say she had 400 requests last year from people wanting to find a place for their big cats. "Usually, they are embarrassed," she says, "because they didn' t fully realize that cute cubs become aggressive cats in two months. There aren't many places to put these animals."

Legitimate nonprofit sanctuaries are proving to be the safest and healthiest last resort for unwanted big cats. But some self-described sanctuaries, while improving animal living conditions, simply continue the exploitation. "They do a rescue," says Lynn Cuny, past president of The Association of Sanctuaries (TAOS), and director of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation near San Antonio, Texas, "and they get publicity, donations, and credibility. The public is misinformed because they think a tiger in a 6 by 6 cage in Louisiana is not good, but an 8 by 8 cage in North Carolina is OK. And some of these operations breed and sell out the back door."

TAOS, founded in 1992, now has 36 accredited members adhering to strict rules, including no breeding or animals on commercial display. Animals are supposed to roam, roar, eat, and bask in the sun.

Recently, the USDA became so concerned about big cat abuse in the hands of untrained private owners that it publicly discouraged it. "I never thought they would take such a strong stance outside their regulatory role," says Ms. O'Conner. "There is not one reason for any private citizen to keep one of these animals as a pet."

Breeders and owners disagree, arguing that the issues are hardly black and white. Cynthia Carper, a licensed big-cat breeder in southern Ohio, says, "Cats aren't making it in the wild. Countries that are having trouble putting food in the bellies of their people aren't interested in saving tigers. I'd rather my future grandchildren be able to say, "I actually saw a tiger here," and not have go to a book to see a picture of one, like a carrier pigeon."

Such rationale sends animal activists into orbit. "This creates a situation where you are breeding wild animals with the purpose of putting them into the hands of the public," says Ms. Cuny. "When a cub is sold by a breeder, she can control who it is sold to, but she does not control what happens to the animal." Despite what some breeders insist, lions and tigers circulating in the US pet trade are not endangered species caught in the same dilemma as the dwindling numbers in Asia and Africa. In the captive world, inbreeding occurs. Lack of managed care, especially genetic management, has clouded the lines of big cats as the numbers have risen.

But endangered or not, big cats are wild in temperament and habits, even though they are generations removed from jungles and savannahs. Standing near Bubba at Tiger Haven, Parker says he spends $6,000 a month on meat. "Tigers aren't like dogs in recognizing that we give them their food," he says. "All food belongs to the tiger. We just happen to have it at that moment of feeding. It belongs to them. What are we doing with it?"

Sanctuaries sometimes have to turn to unique ways to raise funds to stay ahead of operating and maintenance costs. For Tiger Haven, Parker operated a bingo parlor for 2 1/2 years, raising more than $2 million until the state ruled it illegal. In l989, he was a prosecution witness in a joint federal/state probe of alleged corruption of bingo in Tennessee. He was accused of skimming proceeds in an action unrelated to Tiger Haven.

"If you love your animals and are doing the best you can for them in a sanctuary, " says Richard Farinato, director of Captive Wildlife Protection of the Humane Society of the United States, "you keep yourself squeaky clean to not risk the animals you profess to love."

When this reporter visited Tiger Haven unannounced and toured the grounds at Parker's invitation, all the animals were clean, healthy, and for the most part kept in large enclosures. "We are not open to the public," he says. "We don't do performances, and we don't breed."

A stroll through Tiger Haven triggers an underlying question: Why do big cats generate such increasing legal and illegal activity? Parker thinks the US is "Disneyized" into believing "we can be comrades" with big cats.

Cuny thinks it's a case of a consumer society misunderstanding the natural world. "We are a society that lives for consumption and ownership, " she says. "And with nature, in the strangest way, we want it in our backyard, but not out of respect. So people say, 'look at this tiger.' It's incredible. I've got to have one, like a new Mercedes. Our culture tells us to own everything, including tigers."

San Antonio Express-News
By Lisa Sandberg
Exotic pets out of control

Though heartbroken by the fatal shooting of a 400-pound African lioness last week, Carol Asvestas of the Wild Animal Orphanage has no doubt she soon will be beseeched to rescue yet another abandoned lion, tiger or bear — adding to the 600 wild animals she already has.

African lionesses like Hannah may be rare in the wild, but in captivity they are as plentiful as cotton-tailed bunnies.

And each year in Texas, hundreds of dangerous wild animals, many former "pets," end up at the doorsteps of animal sanctuaries. Some are abandoned by drug dealers, others are tossed out by nervous parents who suddenly realize their tiger cub isn't as cuddly as he once was.

"Breeders tell you that if you raise them from tiny babies, they will stay (docile) and litter-trained," Asvestas said. "By eight months, they start tearing up furniture, so they get relegated to a cage in the back yard. When something goes wrong, they call the Wild Animal Orphanage."

An 18-month-old Texas law that was supposed to regulate the booming "backyard wild pet" trade has been largely ignored, animal welfare advocates say.

Much of the problem, they said, lies with the counties, which have essentially turned their backs on the 2001 law requiring them to either regulate or prohibit the ownership of wild animals.

"The counties have been very slow in setting up their ordinances, and many that have ordinances are not enforcing them," said Skip Trimble, a Dallas lawyer who worked with the Texas Humane Legislation Network to pass the state's Dangerous Wild Animal Act. "The counties have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye."

The Department of Health has paperwork on only 101 wild captive animals in the state. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association estimates there are between 4,000 and 5,000 "pet" tigers alone in Texas.

"The numbers are just staggering," said Cindy Carroccio, director of the Austin Zoo, a sanctuary for 300 rescued animals. "There's almost nothing stopping Mr. Joe Breeder from selling a wild cat to a man in downtown Dallas. You can buy a cub tiger for $75 over the Internet.

"If I built an enclosure a day, I would fill it," Carroccio added. "We average 60 to 100 calls a month; 70 to 80 percent of those are from private owners."

According to Trimble's group, of Texas' 254 counties, 27 allow anyone to own a wild animal as long as it is registered; 39 counties, including Bexar, prohibit ownership except under limited circumstances; and 15 have failed to either prohibit or ban the practice. Another 173 counties have banned wild pets entirely, Trimble said, but many of those have done nothing to enforce the measure.

Where Bexar County stands in all this is unclear. The county adopted a middle-of-the-road approach, opting to ban most dangerous animals but exempting those, for example, that travel in circuses and others in sanctuaries, research labs or under the care of a veterinarian.

Officials at the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, which is charged with enforcing the county's ban, said they haven't confiscated any dangerous animals since the law went into effect because they haven't received any reports of dangerous animals kept in captivity.

"I don't know of any seizures of any exotic animals in recent years," Capt. Kenneth Bilhartz said, acknowledging that authorities often learn about exotic pets when one escapes, is injured or someone complains.

When Asvestas and her husband, Ron, began rescuing animals in the early 1980s, they didn't have to worry about big cats. Backyard wild animals had not become fashionable. But by the early 1990s, the wild pet problem "exploded," she said. "Cougars were the rage then, followed by lions and tigers. Then, about three years ago, it was bears. Nothing but bears."

Now, bobcats, Bengali tigers, baboons, pigtail macaques and Russian grizzly bears are among the 600 exotics housed in enclosures of up to two acres on two tracts of land totaling 112 acres.

Desperate pet owners account for about half the calls Asvestas receives. Breeders and roadside zoos make up most of the rest.

"There are people who believe that they're saving an endangered species," she said. "They don't understand that the ones born in captivity can't replace the ones in the wild."

Now facing overcrowding at the orphanage, Asvestas has begun turning animals away.
Moscow Times Interfax
Sunday, Apr. 27, 2003

Both runaway lions shot in travelling circus outside Moscow

MOSCOW. April 27 (Interfax) - The two lions who on Sunday broke out of their cage in the town of Sergiyev-Posad outside Moscow were shot.

Interfax earlier reported that two lions escaped from their cage when the trainer of a travelling circus based in Sergiyev Posad entered the cage to feed the animals.

The lions tore the trainer to death.

The second trainer dialed 02 on his cell phone to call the police, forgetting that it was the number of the Moscow police. Erroneously, a police squad was sent to the Moscow zoo which was peacefully beginning the day.

The policemen who after all arrived at the scene of the incident shot the lion who had already torn the trainer to death, a resident of the Kirov region.

The second lion was surrounded on a stadium where the circus was based. Policemen spent about an hour trying to push the aggressive animal back into the cage, but had to shoot him after their attempts to tame him failed.
The Moscow regional police reported that both trainers were drunk.

The police are currently examining the circus's registration documents.

It is not the first incident of this kind in the Moscow region. In spring, 2002, a lion escaped from his cage in the Odintsovsky district outside Moscow and attacked a girl. The girl suffered injuries but survived.
Easy to buy but difficult to keep

Buying a baby tiger is a fairly easy process, and in many cases the cuddly cubs cost less than a purebred puppy, according to wildlife advocates.

The low cost -- typically $400 to $700 -- inconsistent government oversight and myriad under-the-table sales by unscrupulous breeders have combined to create a booming exotic-animal industry that some advocates say is streaking toward tragedy.

"In the not-too-distant future, the dominoes will start to fall into place and big cats -- tigers -- are going to have to be euthanized for lack of a place to put them," said Cindy Carroccio, director of Austin Zoo, a nonprofit animal sanctuary in Texas.

Concerns about the tiger trade sprang to the forefront this week when state authorities raided a Glen Avon home and found the carcasses of 30 tigers and other big cats, as well as 58 dead cubs.

No one is sure how many privately owned tigers are in the United States because the animals are not well monitored by authorities, said Alan Green, author of the 1999 book "Animal Underworld: Inside America's Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species."

Estimates vary widely, with some saying as many as 33,000 tigers are padding around backyard pens and roadside zoos across the nation, surpassing the number of tigers estimated to be in their natural habitat in Asia.

Owners often unprepared

While buying and selling the cubs is legal, owners often find themselves overwhelmed as the animals mature, Green said.
As cubs, the tigers are cute furballs of streaked orange fur, their large blue or brown eyes flashing innocence and playfulness. But as the tigers grow, buyers typically don't know how to properly care for the powerful cats and are unprepared for the increasing responsibility and cost, Green said.

"You are throwing a huge animal into a situation that almost assures that it will be doomed in some way, that it will be malnourished or sick," Green said.

Adult tigers eat 10 to 15 pounds of meat daily, at a cost of up $100 per day. The big cats often end up locked in undersized cages, where they are neglected by owners who fear letting them out to clean the pen.

The cubs are not hard to buy from breeders who sell young tigers through magazine ads, auctions or the Internet.
Part of the problem, Green said, is the hodgepodge of federal and state laws that govern exotic animals.

"There's a vast network of laws so no one quite knows who's policing these things," Green said.
Different laws, or none at all

The U.S. Department of Agriculture enforces animal-welfare laws involving licensed dealers, exhibitors or transporters, but not private owners, Green said. While some states have stringent laws, others have no regulations, leaving the oversight to local animal-control officers.

California's Department of Fish and Game requires a permit to import, transport or possess a variety of restricted animals, including such exotics as elephants, Gila monsters, zebras and tigers.

There are 285 such permits on file statewide, the agency reported Thursday.

Mike McBride, assistant chief of the department's Chino Hills office, said his agency is overwhelmed, tasked with everything from overseeing exotic animals to protecting wetlands, policing marine fisheries and combating poaching and pollution.

"To try to take a natural-resource agency and say we are going to absolutely be able to put a cap on the exotic species trade . . . that's asking the impossible," McBride said. "Exotic animals were an additional duty assigned to Fish and Game. We combat it at the level that we can."

Overcrowded sanctuaries

A red flag, Carroccio said, is when a sanctuary has a large number of cubs, a sign that a breeding program may also be operating there.

"Sanctuaries do not breed. It would be like the city pound going into the puppy-mill business. It's not logical," said Carroccio, whose 100-acre zoo is home to 10 rescued lions and tigers.

As a growing number of owners try to rid themselves of grown tigers in poor health, most sanctuaries are bursting at the seams, Green said.

"It's a system of sanctuaries that relies on good Samaritans to clean up the mess of greedy breeders and pet owners. Every day there is a mad scramble by people looking for homes for big cats," Green said.

Zoos will not accept privately owned tigers because they are usually cross-bred, he explained.

Carroccio said it may not be long before inundated sanctuaries nationwide start rejecting rescued big cats. That could lead to a sobering development: authorities forced to euthanize rescued tigers.,1413,200~20954~1338058,00.html
Article Published: Saturday, April 19, 2003 - 9:19:21 PM PST
Advocates disagree on care for big cats
By Patricia Farrell Aidem
Staff Writer

ACTON -- Actress Tippi Hedren keeps 60 exotic cats -- lions, tigers and more -- at a jungle-like preserve in Acton, but would like nothing better than to go out of business.

Most of the felines, many of them once abused, were owned by people who wanted unusual pets but later learned they could not handle wild animals around the home, said Gary Lee, a legislative assistant to Hedren, whose Roar Foundation operates the Shambala preserve.

"She would love it if we got to the point where we were out of business, where it was illegal for people to keep big cats as pets," Lee said.

Now Hedren is pushing federal legislation to discourage such private ownership of exotic cats, but is meeting some resistance from animal lovers around the nation.

Hedren is behind the bipartisan Captive Wildlife Safety Act before Congress, which would prohibit interstate sales of lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, cheetahs and bears to private parties. Accredited zoos, sanctuaries, circuses and federally licensed operations would be exempt.

"There are a ridiculous number of people who keep wild animals as pets," Hedren said.

Asked where people find their pets, she said the Internet and classified ads were a common source.

"There need to be rules and regulations. People need to have appropriate habitat and knowledge, they need to be outside city limits for security and they need to have adequate veterinary care. Not all vets are big animal vets," she said.

"This legislation will stop the eventual movement of animals abandoned when their owners can no longer take care of them," Hedren said, adding that the 50 sanctuaries operating now are full and resources are limited. "Our worst nightmare is wondering where would we put them?"

Thousands of miles away, in a small Montana town near the Canadian border, Susan McGee keeps two wolves and a lynx as pets. They are her "children," she says, and she resents a Hollywood movie star trying to tell her what pets she can keep.

"I, for one, am not going to let you take away my right to keep my family together without a huge fight," McGee wrote Hedren.

McGee said in a telephone interview that she was well trained to care for wild animals, having worked in a sanctuary and in animal shelters. People who want to own wild animals should be allowed to do so without the government -- or an actress -- butting in.

"I don't see how she can police everyone when she doesn't know what's going on in every state. She can't do a blanket statement that covers all of us," McGee said. "Of all people, she should understand how they become your family members."

Formally opposing the bill as it winds its way through the committee process in Washington, D.C., are the Phoenix Wildlife Association, a group of exotic animal owners, and the Ohio Animal Association, said Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States, who has been working with Shambala.

U.S. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, introduced the bill in Congress, and Sens. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and John Ensign, R-Nev., did so in the Senate. The bills face committee hearings, Pacelle said.

Unrelated to the federal legislation, Montana's Legislature is considering a bill that would further limit ownership of wild animals. That is part of the problem nationwide -- laws vary widely from state to state, Lee said, but added that Hedren is not involved in the Montana bill.

Hedren, mother of actress Melanie Griffith, gave her most memorable performance in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds." But it was a 1981 movie titled "Roar" -- filmed over an 11-year period with her then-husband, producer Noel Marshall -- that drove her to establish her foundation and Shambala, Lee said. The Soledad Canyon Road sanctuary was a set for the film, and more than a decade later was incorporated as a preserve.

Hedren said that sanctuaries afford the animals a chance to live out their days naturally, and that Shambala makes a 20-year commitment to each animal it accepts. There is no breeding, selling, buying or trading allowed. And the need for these sanctuaries is constant, evidenced by a stack of phone messages she sorted through after a long weekend.

"Here's a message: someone needs a place to take nine tigers and three young lions," she said. "I don't know if they were able to find a place for them yet."

Aside from keeping wild animals out of the hands of those looking for exotic pets, Hedren is hoping the wildlife bill will bring and end to "canned" hunting. Illegal in California but allowed in some states, including Montana and Texas, canned hunting occurs when business owners fence in wild animals then allow "hunters" to gun them down, Lee said. On this point, Hedren and McGee agree.

"I really despise that -- I look at it that, if you're a skilled hunter, you shouldn't have to pay to do that. It's so one-sided. But that has nothing to do with these laws.

"They're trying to stop people from owning these animals and that's not right," McGee said. "From my point of view, I want to have something different from a cat, dog or horse."

That philosophy is another target of the bill, Lee said. Even the best trained animal handlers face danger because that is the nature of the beast. He and Pacelle said two trained handlers were killed in recent weeks -- one in Oklahoma and one in Illinois -- working with tigers.

"It's an issue of safety and one of protecting wild animals," Lee said.,0,2731040.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

90 tigers found dead at animal rescuer's home

Sick animals, hides also discovered.
By Akilah Johnson & Steve Hymon
Los Angeles Times
Posted April 24 2003, 11:54 AM EDT

GLEN AVON, Calif. -- More than 90 dead tigers, including 58 cubs stuffed into freezers, were discovered at the Riverside County home of a noted animal rescuer by authorities who also uncovered a menagerie of malnourished animals roaming the property.

Officials who carried out the Tuesday morning raid were looking for a single juvenile tiger. Instead, they came across 11 tiger and leopard cubs crawling around the home's attic, two small alligators swimming in the bathtub and two hungry tigers on the porch. Behind a gate in the yard, authorities said, they found 30 dead adult tigers, some with their legs tied together.

"The worst of it was that everywhere you went on the property, there were dead animals," said Chuck Traisi, who took the live animals to his rescue facility in San Diego County. "Everyone was in a state of disbelief. There were cats that had long been dead and in various states of decay strewn everywhere."

A pickup truck in the yard was filled with animal skins, said Ralph Rivers, a spokesman for the Riverside County Animal Services Department.

Sheriff's deputies arrested John Weinhart, 60, who runs a well-known animal sanctuary called Tiger Rescue in nearby Colton. But authorities said they are baffled about why Weinhart kept the dead animals.

The Tiger Rescue facility serves as a home for tigers retired from the circus and entertainment industry and has long been a popular weekend destination for families who for a small fee can see the felines.

But in November, the state Department of Fish and Game raided the Tiger Rescue headquarters. San Bernardino County prosecutors charged Weinhart with unlawful public display of tigers, breeding animals without a permit, failure to clean animal cages, and supplying the animals with insufficient food and water. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and will face trial in late May.

The latest raid occurred a few miles away at Weinhart's home near the community of Glen Avon. Also arrested Tuesday was Weinhart's friend Marla Smith. Both were charged with one count of child endangerment because the couple's 8-year-old son lived among the animals, said Paul Dickerson, a Riverside County deputy district attorney. The boy was turned over to the county's social services department.

Prosecutors said they are deciding what charges involving the animals might be appropriate.

Wendelin Rae Ringel, a veterinarian who worked for Weinhart, also was arrested and charged with animal cruelty.

Steve Jeffries, a spokesman for Tiger Rescue, strongly denied that Weinhart or the other suspects did anything to harm the animals.

The live cubs were placed at Weinhart's five-acre property because they required hand-feeding every four hours, Jeffries said, adding that the alligators were personal pets.

He said the couple's child wasn't in danger. "I've known that kid since he was in diapers and he's always seemed healthy to me," Jeffries said. "I have a 4-year-old daughter and my daughter has been around the [cubs] since she was basically born."

Jeffries also disputed allegations by authorities that they discovered 100 dead animals at Weinhart's home. He said that there were well fewer than 30 corpses, and that most of the animals had been dead for at least five years. He said he did not know why the dead animals were on the property or how they got there.

When asked about the 58 dead cubs in freezers, Jeffries replied: "We keep them for research reasons."

Weinhart has operated his rescue operation for 30 years. Tiger Rescue started at his Glen Avon home, but a zoning change in the 1990s barred him from keeping tigers there, and the sanctuary was moved to Colton. Keeping a wild animal requires a permit from the state Department of Fish and Game, and local zoning must allow it.

Weinhart's home is surrounded by a tall chain-link and plywood fence and backs up to a drainage ditch. A large stucco archway stands at the entrance and is topped by iron figurines of lions. The smell of feces was strong outside the home Wednesday, where several junked cars sat.

Officials said they were still trying to determine why so many dead animals were on the property.

"We may or may not end up with a conclusion about these things," said Mike McBride, assistant chief at the state Department of Fish and Game.

Authorities said they raided Weinhart's home in search of a single tiger that they could not locate during earlier searches of the Tiger Rescue facility. They had received an anonymous tip that the tiger was at his house.

Tippi Hedren, the former movie actress who runs a wildlife sanctuary in Acton, said she visited Tiger Rescue a few years ago when it was still in Glen Avon. She said she was "disgusted" by its filthy conditions. The animals lived in their own waste, she said, and did not have enough to drink because the only water was in upside-down trash lids. Hedren said she called the U.S. Department of Agriculture to complain but does not know whether any action was taken.

"I wish I could get inside his head," Hedren said. "In my wildest imagination I cannot understand how anyone could do this."

The average tiger has four to six cubs per litter, said Dr. Jennifer Conrad, an exotic-animal veterinarian. "Unless [the deaths happened] over the last 15 years ... 58 is a huge number of animals, especially cubs," she said.

A contagious virus, such as canine distemper, could spread through a facility and cause such a high number of deaths, Conrad said.

Wayne Pacelle, vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, said there has been an increase in the number of tigers being raised for the exotic pet trade under the guise of a rescue facility.

"We call them pseudo-sanctuaries," he said. "They're primarily engaged in commercial activities while passing themselves off as a nonprofit."

Neighbors in Glen Avon said Wednesday that they had come to accept Weinhart's compound as part of the community.

Josephine Franco-Mercado, 51, who has lived next door to Weinhart since 1987, said her daughter tape-recorded the tigers snoring before leaving for college in case she missed home.,1413,203~21481~1349030,00.html
Tiger rescuer under federal scrutiny
Thursday, April 24, 2003

An animal rescuer arrested Tuesday for keeping 88 dead tigers at his Glen Avon home is also under federal investigation for violating animal welfare laws at his Colton sanctuary.

Tiger Rescue owner John Weinhart has been under scrutiny for some time, said U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman Jim Rogers.

Federal investigators were at the Agua Mansa Road sanctuary in November when 10 tiger cubs were seized by the state, said California Fish and Game officials.

Next month, Weinhart is scheduled to stand trial in San Bernardino Superior Court on multiple charges of improper animal care, including poor record-keeping and not meeting requirements for the animals' housing.

Based on a separate tip to Fish and Game officials, Weinhart, 60, Marla Smith, 47, and veterinarian Wendelin Ringel, 40, were arrested Tuesday during a raid at Weinhart's and Smith's home.

Investigators found carcasses of 30 tigers on the property and 58 dead cubs in freezers at the home in the 9400 block of Bellegrave Avenue in Glen Avon in Riverside County.

Weinhart has a long history with exotic animals, operating two exotic pet shops in Inglewood in the 1960s as well as renting out animals for film and television productions.

As he got more clients, his collection of animals grew and the pet shops ran out of space for sheltering the animals.

Tiger Rescue opened in 1972 at the Glen Avon property as a retirement sanctuary for tigers used in show business. In 1975, Weinhart was charged with eight misdemeanor counts of improperly caring for exotic animals, all of which were later dismissed.

After being ordered out of Riverside County for violating zoning laws, the sanctuary moved to Colton in 1999.

"We have monitored the business there with our animal control officer on occasion," said Colton police Lt. Bob Miller, who added that few complaints have been received from residents and neighbors.

Last year neighbors went to the police after seeing malnourished horses on the property. Weinhart said at the time that they were elderly horses donated by farms to be fed to the tigers.

Weinhart's problems were the hot topic of conversation this week among exotic animal enthusiasts, said Chemaine Almquist, who co-owns Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Phelan with her husband Joel.

Since opening their sanctuary eight years ago, they have avoided Weinhart and his requests for cubs, she said.

She said she couldn't understand how an on-site veterinarian could have allowed so many animals to die under her care. In comparison, Almquist said, her sanctuary has only lost two tiger cubs since opening.

Weinhart's assistant and close friend, Steve Jeffries, said Fish and Game officials greatly exaggerated the number of tiger remains found in Glen Avon.

He said Weinhart did store dead cubs in the freezer for research, but they died of natural causes. They were stillborn or died shortly after birth, he said.

"This man has a love for these animals that is inhuman," Jeffries said.

Neighbors of Weinhart's Glen Avon home, which has a tall iron gate around it decorated with lion emblems, and friends say Weinhart is friendly but extremely protective of his animals. He's a pack rat, they say, and never sells or gives away any of his animals.

Weinhart's Glen Avon neighbor Gilda Gallegos, 46, said she's smelled a strong odor since she moved in in 1987.

"I would think dead animals," she described the smell. "That went on for years and years."

Another neighbor, Raquel Guzman, 42, said that years ago Weinhart threatened harm after her son Andrew and his friends peeked over the fence at his animals.

"He didn't want anyone messing with him, bothering his animals," Guzman said.

Tiger Rescue volunteer Jon Oehler, 24, of Yucaipa, said he has the highest respect for Weinhart and Smith.

"They love these animals more than anyone knows, and no one knows what it takes to take care of these animals," said Oehler, who has volunteered there for two years. "No animals here were ever mistreated or neglected."

Almquist said sanctuaries are overseen by both state Fish and Game and the USDA, both of which annually inspect her property and make surprise visits.

On her last inspection, the state cited her for a puddle of water in a cage, which she fixed immediately.

"If I'm getting popped for minor things like that, what the hell happened over there?" she said.

Michael McBride, assistant chief of enforcement for Fish and Game, said his agency would never have inspected the Glen Avon site were it not for a recent tip.

It took additional time to get a search warrant to enter the property, he said.

Additionally, laws have changed in recent years, giving his agency more authority over inspections, which may have led to the November visit to the Colton sanctuary.

Said the USDA's Rogers: "The license isn't necessarily a seal of approval. It only says they met the conditions to receive a license."

The problem, Almquist said, is there are too many tiger breeders. Cubs can be bought around the county for as little as $250 less than the cost of a purebred cat. In most states, the animals are unregulated and can be kept without a permit.

Sanctuaries exist, Almquist said, because many people can't care for the animals. She rescues tigers which are physically abused, drug abused, starved or overfed.

"These are not toys. These are dangerous wild animals," said Richard Farinato, who directs the captive wildlife protection program for Humane Society of the United States near Washington, D.C..

Farinato said there are as many as 10,000 privately held tigers in the United States.

"So many times you see people claiming to be a rescuer and a sanctuary and they're anything but," he said. "In many cases they're well-meaning people and they get in over their head."

Animal rescue is a very difficult business and no one should enter it hoping to make money, Almquist said. She and her husband have filed bankruptcy twice and missed house payments, all to care for the animals.

"I hope this guy pays because there's no reason these animals had to be treated the way they were," Almquist said. "They were given to him for protection and safety and well being and obviously he wasn't providing that.",4057,6329719%255E13762,00.html
Circus tiger eats man's arm
From correspondents in Madrid
April 24, 2003

A CIRCUS tiger has bitten off the arm of a man who wandered onto the show's grounds in Spain.

The man had apparently approached or reached into the animal's cage, officials said.

The Italian-owned International Circus had been preparing for its opening performance in Colmenar Viejo, outside Madrid, at the time.

The victim was a 28-year-old Ukrainian, whose name was not given.

There were no eyewitnesses to the attack, but it was believed the man either got close enough to the cage for one of the eight tigers inside to claw him or he reached into it, said Luis Serrano, a spokesman for the emergency medical crew that treated him.

The tiger bit off the man's right arm above the elbow and ate it and caused serious damage to the left arm.

The man's life was not in danger, Serrano said.

Tiger's owner remains in jail
Web posted Monday, June 30, 2003
By Sara Bancroft | South Carolina Bureau
AIKEN - A Salley, S.C., woman remained in the Aiken County Detention Center on Monday, charged with neglecting to register a dangerous animal with Aiken County Animal Control.

Melanie Szegedi, 44, of the 6000 block of Wagener Road, was given 18 days by Aiken County Animal Control to produce the correct paperwork proving she had liability insurance coverage for at least $50,000 on her young Bengal and Siberian mixed tiger. She kept the animal in her home and backyard surrounded by a flimsy fence, said Animal Control Director Shirley Harden.

On Friday, Ms. Szegedi was sentenced by a Wagener magistrate to a $440 fine or 30 days in jail, Mrs. Harden said. Unable to pay the fine, Ms. Szegedi was put behind bars.

The woman's neighbors said her boyfriend is supposed to be taking care of the tiger and at least 30 dogs.

"I'm not really worried," said Tommy Cook, 49, Ms. Szegedi's next-door neighbor. "She can have what she wants, but if (the tiger) comes in my yard and attacks one of my family members, he's mine."

Ms. Szegedi had been arrested so many times in Columbiana County, Ohio, for probation violations and charges of passing bad checks that office workers and sheriff's deputies there knew her by name. But Lt. Allen Haueter, of the Columbiana County Sheriff's Office, said extraditing Ms. Szegedi to Ohio for an outstanding warrant for a probation violation isn't worth the trouble or the cost.

Ms. Szegedi's release from Aiken County's jail won't be the end of the tiger tale.

"When she gets out, if she still can't get the insurance on it, we'll turn right around and charge her again," Mrs. Harden said. And this time, the tiger, which will weigh 700 pounds when it's fully grown, will be seized.

It is legal in South Carolina to own exotic animals, and their popularity is rising. There are at least two dangerous exotic animals in Aiken County that Animal Control is aware of - Ms. Szegedi's tiger and a cougar kept outside a home in Windsor. The cougar's owner paid a premium of $1,800 with a deductible of about $3,500 for insurance, she said.

"This thing is getting bigger and bigger and bigger," Mrs. Harden said. "Someone is going to get hurt. It's going to take someone getting killed by one of them before our legislators do something."

Twelve states have laws banning exotic animals, she said.
Man Critically Injured In Tiger Attack
Unidentified Victim Was Tending Tigers At Calhan Compound

POSTED: 12:04 p.m. MDT June 30, 2003

CALHAN, Colo. -- A 32-year-old Colorado Springs man was reported in critical condition Sunday after tigers attacked him at a wildlife refuge in El Paso County.

El Paso County sheriff's officials say the employee of Big Cats of Serenity Springs, near Calhan, was in the cage tending to the tigers when he was mauled Sunday.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office was not called to the scene. The incident was handled by local firefighters who did not return calls regarding the attack.

The man's name has not been released.

Big Cats has more than 60 animals, according to its Web site, including tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, and lynx.
Posted on Mon, Jan. 10, 2005
Young tiger siblings captured in region
Animals found in Gaston, Cleveland counties; owner sought

Animal-control and law-enforcement officers are looking for housing options and the owner of two tigers captured this weekend while roaming Gaston and Cleveland counties.

Motorists spotted the two female tigers wandering around 10 p.m. Saturday. Officials said they are young, 100-pound siblings.

Sheriff's and animal-control officers from both counties searched for about an hour before locating one along the 2900 block of County Line Road. Authorities could not provide an address of where they captured the other tiger.

The sisters were being held at separate animal-control facilities -- isolated from other animals -- because they were captured in different counties. Officials said the tigers were in good condition, only suffering a few cuts and scratches on their ears and noses.

Nobody was reported injured by the tigers.

Animal-control officers called a veterinarian to get advice on how to care for the animals, particularly their diet.

"Before we called in the veterinarian, we got the (tiger) a few hot dogs," said Sam Lockridge III, coordinator of health services for Cleveland County. "We talked to the vet and used another type of meat."

In zoos, tigers eat commercially prepared meat -- about four pounds per day -- and occasional bones to keep their teeth healthy, said Lorraine Smith, curator of mammals at the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro.

Authorities are investigating the incident and searching for the owner of the tigers. As of Sunday night, nobody had claimed them.

"We'd like the owner of the animals to come forward," Lockridge said.

"The animals are very tame and appear to be raised around people."

Tigers are not allowed in Cleveland and Gaston counties under their wild and exotic animal ordinances.

Reggie Horton, Gaston County Animal Control director, said those who owned an exotic animal before the ordinance was passed in the mid-1990s are allowed to keep the animal, but must register it with the county. Horton said his staff does not have any registered tigers on file.

If found with an illegal exotic animal, the owner could face civil or criminal fines and penalties, he said.

"We've seen a gamut, but as far as my recollection, these are the first tigers that I'm aware of," Horton said.

The N.C. Zoo does not house tigers.

"We can help them out with suggestions on food, but my guess is we won't be able to take them in unless it's a very temporary situation," said Rod Hackney, a spokesman for the N.C. Zoo.

"We don't have tigers. Our lions would not get along well with tigers."
Published January 23, 2005

Tiger left in woods by owner finds way home
The big cat, which was born at a Lampe farm, has since been turned over to animal refuge.

By: Scott Smith, the Associated Press

By Ranier Sabin
Associated Press

Little Rock — India the Bengal tiger, raised as a pet, knew what to do when she was abandoned along the Buffalo River in north-central Arkansas.

She trekked 60 miles through the woods and Ozark Mountains to the Harrison home of the man who had left her to fend on her own.

Now, the 400-pound tiger has her reward — a new home.

Mike Conner delivered the Bengal tiger to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs on Jan. 12, only five days after he set the animal free along the Buffalo River, said Scott Smith, who operates the refuge.

Conner's telephone numbers were out of service earlier this week, but Smith said the tiger, which was born July 1, 2003, on a Lampe, Mo., farm that breeds Bengals, trekked 60 miles before she eventually made her way back to Conner's residence after spending four days on her own.

Conner, who had owned the animal since it was 3 months old, then decided to drive the tiger to Turpentine Creek, Smith said.

"I've worked in 26 different states. I thought I have heard every story possible. But this one threw me for a loop," Smith said.

The tiger has been quarantined as tests and vaccinations are being administered for the next three to four weeks. But Smith said the animal has adjusted to her new environment.

"She is doing fine," he said.

Beverly McClintock, a veterinarian in Western Grove, treated the tiger for an abscessed tooth when Conner owned her. She said Conner wrestled with the tiger and was playful with the animal during the appointment. But McClintock, who also owns a tiger, said taking care of an animal from the wild was not easy.

Smith said Conner believed that the tiger was becoming increasingly irritable when he decided to abandon her near Erby.

"He thought he was doing a favor by setting it free," Smith said.
Lion cub bites child

Baraboo police have ordered a lion cub's owner to quarantine the animal after it caused a minor injury to a young child.

On Thursday evening an 8-year-old girl was visiting the Creature Features pet store, 715 Broadway Street, said Capt. Craig Olsen of the Baraboo Police Department. A lion cub also at the store bit her, he said.

"It just broke the skin," he said. "It was a very minor injury."

Because the incident involved a lion, the incident is notable, Olsen said. But it was handled in the normal manner and the owner was instructed to quarantine the lion cub.

Animal bites of any kind should always be treated with some caution even when the injury caused is small, he said.

According to the Sauk County Public Health Department, an animal which bites a person must be quarantined for at least 10 days and checked by a veterinarian for signs of rabies.

Additional information such as the owner of the cub was not available Friday evening.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Body in tiger cage puzzles zoo

Body in tiger cage puzzles zoo

18/12/2005 22:11 - (SA)

Tigers maul man to death

Debbie Sauer and Sapa, Die Volksblad

Bloemfontein - Staff at the Bloemfontein Zoo are baffled after a man was found mauled to death in the tiger enclosure on Sunday.

They do not know who he is, except that he is not a worker, or how he got into the enclosure.

Captain Elsa Gerber said an adult visitor to the zoo raised the alarm when he saw a body lying in the enclosure of two tigers at noon.

"We don't know who he is, how he got there, where he's from or anything else," she said.

"He must have climbed over the fence. That's the only way he could have got in there."

It appeared he was walking around the enclosure, consisting of a large roaming area surrounded by a big ditch, said Gerber.

The area was cordoned off to the public and the tigers kept in their sleeping quarters while police removed the man's body, she said.

"He had bite marks and scratch marks and bruises on his body," she said, but added that his body was intact, indicating that the animals had not tried to feed on him.

However, it was difficult to say how he died. That would be determined by a post mortem.

Gerber said the man was naked when he was found. His clothes had been ripped from his body and the shreds were found in the enclosure too.

The man fell about 10m into the tigers' den. Marks indicated that the body was dragged.

Rhulani Shibambu, senior nature conservation officer at the zoo, said no one at the zoo knew the man.

He said the Vuka music festival took place at the Loch Logan island next to the zoo on Saturday, and it was possible that the man got lost and ended up in the enclosed area.

A beer can was found next to the body, but it was not yet clear whether it was dropped by the man.

Shibambu said the tigers will not be put down, because it was not their fault that the man ended up in their area.

He said there was no negligence on the part of the zoo.

He said the tigers were not hungry, but if they were, they would have devoured him. They were fed at about 15:00 on Saturday.,,2-7-1442_1852713,00.html

Help Big Cat Rescue end the practices that result in the abandonment and abuse of big cats by sending an email to your lawmaker through

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Big Cats in the News

Big Cats in the News

Breaking News: Loose tiger found, tranquilized

Staff Report

Updated: 11/17/2005 6:59:57 AM

GREENWICH -- A tiger that escaped from a game farm in Greenwich on Wednesday morning was found about three and a half hours later and tranquilized, authorities said.

The 7 year old 350- to 400-pound female tiger, named Tahan, found about a mile from the outdoor zoo, was shot twice with tranquilizer darts.

She was trained to do tricks, including walking on her hind legs.

The gold and white tabby Bengal tiger was described as being docile by its owner Jeff Ash, who operates the Ashville Game Farm & Exotic Zoo on Lick Spring Road in Greenwich. Ash, though, said the tiger had the potential to be dangerous if cornered.

The loose tiger prompted Argyle Central School, several miles away, to cancel outdoor recess Wednesday.

The tiger escaped about 10:30 a.m. from the game farm and was tranquilized just before 2 p.m.

Anybody lose a tiger?
Tuesday, September 13, 2005 8:50 AM CDT
Cute cub found at Leary exit on I-30
Texarkana Gazette

A tiger cub spent some time at the Hooks animal shelter Monday after it was found running in and out of traffic on Interstate 30.

"We thought it was a joke when we got the call but when we got there, it was really a tiger. It was just standing by the road," said Hooks Police Sgt. David Horn.

The first call about the tiger was reported at 7:40 a.m. and the caller described the animal as "running in and out of traffic."

Horn responded to the calls about the tiger along with Bowie County Sheriff's Deputies George Huggins Jr. and Eugene Swift.

Horn said the female cub weighs a little over 100 pounds and is very tame.

She was wearing a collar and had been declawed.

"It had been somebody's pet. She's pretty gentle," he said.

The Bowie County deputies described the tiger as a "big old house cat"

It is illegal to keep a wild animal in Bowie County and the charge is classified as a class C misdemeanor.

Capt. James Manning, chief deputy for the Bowie County Sheriff's Department, said no one had reported a tiger cub missing as of Monday afternoon.

The tiger spent most of Monday at the Hooks Animal Shelter feasting on raw steak and tater tots.

Employees from the Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge in Tyler, Texas, were expected to pick her up late Monday afternoon.

"We get calls like this from all over," said Gail Bendel, office manager for the refuge.

The Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge has 38 big cats including tigers, lions, cougars and leopards.

"All of our cats have been rescued from somewhere," Bendel said. "Some were pets, some were abused and some are retired from the circus."

She said life at the refuge will be pretty easy for the tiger cub.

"It will get fat and sassy here. We don't ask them to do anything but be happy. When they come here, they are here for the duration."

Posted on Thu, Aug. 18, 2005
Teenager killed by tiger at Kansas animal sanctuary
Associated Press

MOUND VALLEY, Kan. - A Siberian tiger attacked and killed a teenage girl who
was posing for a picture at an animal sanctuary Thursday morning in
southeast Kansas, authorities said.

The Labette County Sheriff's office identified the victim as Haley R.
Hilderbrand, 17, of Altamont. A release said Hilderbrand was at the Lost
Creek Animal Sanctuary posing for a photo with the 7-year-old tiger, which
was being restrained by its handler, when the animal turned and attacked

Officers and handlers killed the animal. Emergency personnel were not able
to revive Hilderbrand, who was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators have sent the tiger's body to Kansas State University in
Manhattan for a necropsy.

"This animal had been around people across the country and there's never
been a problem," Sheriff William Blundell said in a telephone interview.

Doug Billingsly and his family opened the 80-acre sanctuary in 1994.
According to the sanctuary's Web site, the sanctuary has lions, leopards,
bears, white tigers and even a liger, a rare cross between a lion and a

The Web site also says the sanctuary has an affiliated Animal Entertainment
Productions, which trains animals for stage performances, movies, television
shows and magic shows.

Billingsly didn't immediately return a phone call for comment.
Condition still critical for boy mauled by lion, tiger
By Lora Pabst and Kari Petrie,

A 10-year-old Royalton boy who was attacked by a tiger and a lion Wednesday
still was in critical condition Friday night.

Russell LaLa was in the intensive care unit at Hennepin County Medical
Center in Minneapolis.

Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel said he has not filed a report with
the county attorney for possible charges against Chuck Mock, who owned the
cats. Wetzel expects to do so in a week.

The sheriff said he is waiting to get LaLa's complete medical report to see
the extent of the child's injuries. Then the county attorney can get a
better picture of the entire incident, Wetzel said. But he said his office
is not rushing to complete the report because there is no obvious crime.

"We don't know of any violations," he said. But he said once the county
attorney gets the report, he may find a violation.

Mock had 12 exotic animals registered with Morrison County. According to
county documents, he had five tigers, six lions and one bear. The two
animals who attacked LaLa were euthanized Thursday.

A state law that went into effect Jan. 1 prohibits people from possessing
animals such as large cats, primates such as monkeys and apes, and bears.

There are several exceptions to the law, including people who owned such
animals before Jan. 1. They were required to register their animals.

Wetzel said the law doesn't go far enough, because people are still allowed
to own exotic animals.

"It doesn't protect from an act of bad judgment or a fluke," he said. "I
don't think anyone but a zoo should have a large predator."

Rosie Beffinbaugh, St. Cloud's environmental health technician, said: "We
haven't had any applications or knowledge of any exotic animals in St.

LaLa was with his father when he was attacked about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday at
Best Buy Auto, three miles south of Little Falls. Mock owns the business and
kept the animals near it.

Mock opened the door of a cage and a tiger pushed its way out, Wetzel said.
LaLa was alarmed and he moved away quickly. The animal pounced on him, he
said. When the men pulled the tiger off the boy, a lion that shared a cage
with the tiger lunged at the boy, Wetzel said.

Mock could not be reached for comment.,0,6619459.story?coll=sfla-news-palm
Bengal tiger escapes from cage

Officers use tranquilizer darts to capture Tristan

By Akilah Johnson
Staff Writer
Posted February 27 2005

A 500-pound tiger escaped from its cage at Panther Ridge Sanctuary in Wellington and trotted around its compound sniffing at horses for more than two hours Saturday before wildlife officers captured it, officials said.

About 9:40 a.m., a woman feeding Tristan didn't latch the cage completely, and the Bengal tiger pushed past her and escaped, officials said. Tristan's owner, called 911.

More than 20 Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies and state wildlife officers arrived at 14755 Palm Beach Pointe Blvd. By noon, wildlife officers -- with the help of David Hitzig, executive director Jupiter's Busch Wildlife Sanctuary -- were able to tranquilize the tiger and return it to its cage, Willie Puz, a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman, said.

Two tranquilizer darts were be used because the first had little effect, Puz said. The second dart startled Tristan, making the cat take a couple of quick steps, Puz said. But the tiger didn't run, and its actions weren't much of a threat, he said.

Then, 4-year-old Tristan became groggy, lay down and went to sleep, he said.

Tristan's escape reminded many of an incident seven months ago, when a 600-pound Bengal tiger named Bobo escaped from his cage and his compound in Loxahatchee. Bobo was on the loose for 26 hours before he was shot dead by a Conservation Commission officer, who said the cat lunged at him while he was waiting for other officers to arrive with a tranquilizer gun.

During Tristan's two-hour jaunt Saturday, the cat approached several horses on the 10-acare property, which is both a refuge for abused, neglected or abandoned cats and a horse farm.

"The horse kind of kicked at it, and the tiger said, `I don't want any part of this' and just walked away," Puz, said.

Judy Berens, Tristan's owner, was cited for escaped captive wildlife, a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in jail or a $500 fine. This was her first infraction, Puz said.

Berens could not be reached for comment despite attempts by phone.

According to the sanctuary's Web site, Panther Ridge has 16 large cats, including Amos, a black leopard, and Eros and China, two spotted leopards. Some were left with her; others Berens bought because she felt they weren't being taken care of properly.

A German film crew doing a documentary about how easy it is to buy exotic animals in the United States bought Tristan but was unable to find a qualified zoo to adopt the tiger when the film was completed, according to the Web site.

Tristan never made it outside of the sanctuary's perimeter fence or came in contact with the public Saturday, but officials didn't take any chances.

"If a wild animal gets out of its cage there's a potential for anything," Puz said. "Even for the people who were in the compound."

The sanctuary provides tours, but it was unclear Saturday if one was taking place when Tristan escaped.

There were sheriff's deputies and wildlife officers with rifles inside and outside the perimeter fence in case the tiger ran or got out of the fence, officials said.

The incident with Bobo created a public furor. Bobo's owner, former B-movie Tarzan Steve Sipek, accused the officer of killing the declawed cat unnecessarily, claiming the officer panicked and disputing the officer's account of Bobo lunging at him.

Commission officers around the state where threatened after the shooting, something Puz said has sense subsided. He got his last piece of hate mail about Christmas, he said.

Akilah Johnson can be reached at or 561-243-6645.

St. Petersburg FL Times
February 24, 2005

Woman is nipped on hand by tiger
She was not seriously hurt by the cub, which was on display with two adults at a car lot.

An Oldsmar woman was bitten on the hand by an infant tiger two weeks ago during an exhibit at a car dealership on Tampa Road, authorities said.

Sandra Hopps-Caraballo received two punctures to her right hand from a baby Bengal tiger, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Two adult tigers and two infant tigers were on display at the Tampa Bay Auto Mall on Feb. 12. The adult tigers weighed about 450 and 550 pounds. The cubs were small enough that the animals' caregivers could cradle them in their arms.

The two infant tigers were positioned so people could have their photographs taken with them, said Lt. Steve DeLacure, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The commission licenses and regulates pet ownership and other uses associated with exotic animals in the state.

DeLacure said Hopps-Caraballo was having her picture taken with the cub when it bit her.

Hopps-Caraballo could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Owner Ron Wordon, a Palm Harbor resident, said the animals were there for customers' entertainment and to educate local children.

Wordon has been selling high-end used cars at the Tampa Road auto lot for about 18 months.

"The whole exhibit was a great idea in terms of educating the kids," Wordon said. "Everybody seemed to enjoy it."

Wordon said a representative from advertising agency Bottomline Events, in conjunction with Zoo Dynamics, which provides animals to zoos and exhibits, offered to bring the tigers in for free as a one-time weekend promotional event at the dealership. Wordon agreed to host the tigers on his property for three days.

During that time, they were under the care of Marcus Cook, the wildlife exhibitor for Zoo Dynamics.

After the bite, sheriff's deputy was sent to the lot, followed by officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Cook was charged with unsafe handling of captive wildlife, resulting in an injury to a person. He was instructed to remove the baby tiger from public contact during his exhibition in Florida.

Zoo Dynamics could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

DeLacure said Hopps-Caraballo refused rabies treatment. To treat for rabies, the baby tiger would have to be euthanized so a brain tissue sample could be collected for testing.

"It was not serious at all, it was two small puncture wounds to the right hand made with the canines," DeLacure said. "She did not even go to a hospital."

DeLacure said the last tiger bite to occur in the area was in the late 1990s when a tiger attacked a handler during a private photo shoot at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Bayfront Center.

Posted on Wed, Feb. 23, 2005
Tiger shot, killed near Reagan library

Associated Press

MOORPARK, Calif. - Authorities shot and killed a tiger Wednesday that had been roaming for days in the hills near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

The cat was shot several hundred yards from school soccer and baseball fields at the edge of a housing development, said Lorna Bernard, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Game. Authorities still don't know who the owner is.

"It's unfortunate that we had to kill it," Bernard said. "It's even more unfortunate that the person who owned it didn't come forward and alert us immediately. We might have been able to capture it."

The hunters had been looking for the animal for eight days, using infrared equipment at night. They had set traps with goat meat and chicken.

Federal wildlife service trackers had to shoot to kill because a tranquilizer would have taken several minutes to bring down the animal and the hunters or others could have been in danger.

The hunt began after the discovery of paw prints on a ranch near the library that were far too large for native bobcats or mountain lions. The size of the tracks indicated the animal weighed as much as 600 pounds; officials thought it might even be a lion.

The area has a number of ranches and large estates.

Two weeks ago, authorities removed nearly two dozen large cats, including lions and tigers, from a Moorpark animal sanctuary not far from the library. Bernard said all the animals that had been kept on that property were accounted-for.

The animal's body was removed via helicopter.,2933,105818,00.html

Woman's Tiger Fatally Mauls 10-Year-Old Nephew
Monday, December 15, 2003

MILLERS CREEK, N.C. — 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.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

17 Year Old Haley Killed by Tiger

Lost Creek Tiger Kills Teenager

On August 18, 2005 a 17 year old girl, posing for yearbook photos with a tiger was mauled to death.

man walks tiger on leashQuick Facts:

Pound for pound, tigers are 12 times stronger than a man.  A leash is not an effective way to restrain a tiger.

Real sanctuaries do not allow contact between dangerous animals
and the public. 

You can stop this madness by speaking out for better laws HERE.

mauled by tiger

At right, Lost Creek's owner Doug Billingsley, walks tiger on leash. 

Udall couple mourns loss of grandchild mauled by a tiger


Special to the Traveler

An attack by a tiger that left their 17-year-old granddaughter dead has a Udall couple intent on developing tougher state and local regulations for exotic animals.

"I hope this startles enough people, our legislators, to pass laws so that these type of animals can be restrained and confined," said Udall's former mayor, Bill Hilderbrand.

The Hilderbrands stopped in Winfield early Friday to speak with a Courier reporter. Later they were heading to Topeka to be with family.

The body of their granddaughter, Haley Hilderbrand, was taken to Topeka for an autopsy shortly after her death Thursday morning at the Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary in Mound Valley . Haley lived in Altamont with her parents, Randy and Laura Hilderbrand.

The grandparents said the bright high schooler, who loved cats, was posing for a senior picture with a seven-year-old Siberian Tiger while its handler used a chain to restrain it. At 110 pounds, Haley didn't stand a chance against the 300-pound unpredictable beast, said her grandfather.

"She was a little scared of the tiger," according to Bill, who explained that the two had startled each other as the girl bent down for something. "It lunged and jerked the handler, and it got her by the back of the neck."

Haley's neck was broken, said Bill. A report from the Labette County Sheriff's Department indicates emergency medical teams tried to revive Haley but were unsuccessful. Haley had been "severely bitten," according to the report, and was pronounced dead at the scene by the deputy coroner.

The tiger was put down by sheriff's officers and the tiger's handler, the report said. Its body was taken to Kansas State University for a necropsy.

Hilderbrand's wife, Mary, is currently on the Udall City Council. Over the summer, the board has been reviewing its exotic animal regulations. At least one man in the Udall area is known to have exotic animals. Mary said she didn't know of any problems caused by the animals, which are caged, but the council has been considering stricter rules in case others follow suit.

After her granddaughter's death, Mary feels even more resolved that the public needs to be protected from the tigers, bears and wolves that some people keep as pets. The pair believes all dangerous exotics should be caged and not allowed to roam among people, even if they are on leashes.

"Now (the need for regulations) strikes even more close to home," said Mary. "We don't want anyone to lose anyone. We don't want people to feel what we''re having to."

Mary said state regulations on exotic animals are "awfully lax" and should be strengthened as well.

The Hilderbrands said posing with exotic animals is something that many teenagers have started doing as a way to create novelty senior photos. Bill said he hoped others would now have "second thoughts" before doing the same.

The couple and their family is "still stunned" by Haley's tragic death. Friday they were remembering her pretty smile and how she loved to run.

"All my grandchildren are beautiful and intelligent, but she really was," said Mary.

Doug Billingsly and his family opened the 80-acre sanctuary in 1994, a story by the Associated Press said. According to the sanctuary's Web site, the sanctuary has lions, leopards, bears, white tigers and even a liger, a rare cross between a lion and a tiger.

The Web site also says the sanctuary has an affiliated Animal Entertainment Productions, which trains animals for stage performances, movies, television shows and magic shows.

Those connected to the event have said this was the first instance of a tiger attack on a human at the sanctuary.

"This animal has been around people across the country, and there\'s never been a problem," Sheriff William Blundell said in a telephone interview with the AP.

At the moment, Cowley County does not have any laws that regulate the handling and keeping of exotic animals.

In 2003, Burden became a potential site for an exotic animal farm when Florida residents Vernon Roberts and his then fiancee, Sheree Dobbins, purchased 30 acres of land and planned to set up house with a menagerie including tigers, cougars, a lion, a bear, various reptiles, two baboons, parrots, a coyote and three wolves. The couple's plans caused a great deal of concern among Burden residents, as the property sits just one mile south of the small town.

A Burden source said Friday he believed Roberts is in the process of moving the animals to the property. When he first purchased the land, Roberts said Cowley County was attractive because it had no zoning regulations.

In October 2003, Las Vegas magician and tiger enthusiast Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy was attacked by a seven-year-old white tiger, according to a news Web site. The tiger bit Horn on the neck and dragged him behind a stage as a live audience watched.

The AP contributed to this report.

Tiger mauling prompts crusade


Owners of the exotic could face more rules




The Kansas City Star"We're not trying to put zoos out of business. We just don't want average Joe owning them (exotic animals).We want strict regulations. We don't feel our local and state people even knew what was going on."

Mike Good, victim's stepfather


Haley Hilderbrand's stepfather says her family had no idea the Kansas girl planned to take her senior picture with a Siberian tiger at the local animal sanctuary.


But had they known, they might not have recognized the peril.


"Our community was unaware of the danger," said the stepfather, Mike Good. "We got accustomed to seeing these pictures with tigers on display."


Haley's photo session ended in tragedy last August, when the tiger suddenly turned on the 17-year-old girl from Altamont , Kan. , killing her instantly.


Now Good is among those pushing for stricter exotic animal regulations, which are to be discussed next month by the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission.


"We're not trying to put zoos out of business," Good said. "We just don't want average Joe owning them (exotic animals). We want strict regulations. We don't feel our local and state people even knew what was going on."


Some exotic animal enthusiasts are troubled by the proposal.


"A lack of regulation has led to some bad ownership and abuse, but what bothers me is that the response is to take away all of their (exotic animal owners') rights, the good people and the bad," said Lynn Culver, a director the Feline Conservation Federation.


No criminal charges have been filed in connection with Haley's death Aug. 18 at Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary and Entertainment Productions in Mound Valley , Kan. Sanctuary owners have denied wrongdoing in their handling of animals.


Haley was a friend of the owners' family and had been to the facility earlier to visit the baby tigers. She was killed posing with Shakka, a 7-year-old Siberian tiger.


Labette County officials called the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission to investigate Haley's death, but the agency was powerless to act because Kansas has no laws regulating the ownership of exotic cats like tigers and lions.


Haley's relatives, and others, want to change that. They are urging stringent state guidelines for those animals. The new rules would apply to lions, tigers, jaguars, cheetahs and leopards, as well as to large native animals currently regulated by the state, including bears, wolves and mountain lions.


Among the proposed requirements:

¦ Owners of exotic animals would ha ve to get annual state permits. To qualify, they first would have to obtain a U.S. Department of Agriculture exhibitors' license and undergo annual federal inspections. They also would have to report the number of animals owned, tag the animals and have a plan and the equipment to catch an escaped animal.

¦ Exotic animals could not be kept as pets.

¦ Direct public contact with the animals would be prohibited.

¦ The state could kill an escaped animal that poses a public danger or an animal that the agency de clares feral, or wild, after being at large three days.


Permit fees as high as $500 and mandatory liability insurance of $250,000 also have been discussed. Accredited zoos would be exempt.


Kansas wildlife law enforcement director Kevin Jones said his department had been reviewing the state's regulations for more than a year, but Haley's death stepped up those talks.


"I think it brought to the forefront . that there really are issues with the ownership and possession of these animals," Jones said. "Some didn't realize people could possess them (in Kansas )."


Missouri law requires all dangerous animals, including tigers, to be registered with local law enforcement, but there are no other state criteria for owning exotic cats, said a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.


Meanwhile, the Missouri Department of Conservation sets rules for owning native animals like bears, mountain lions and wolves and prohibits public contact with those animals.


In both states, some local jurisdictions have stricter laws.


Opponents of the Kansas proposals say the rules would unfairly punish responsible owners, whom they say play an important role in preserving many endangered species. They are especially troubled by insurance requirements, and they predict a ban on exotic pets would drive owners "underground," threatening public safety and the animals' welfare.


"If you try to prevent people from pursuing their passion, they will find a way," said Harold Epperson, secretary and treasurer of the Feline Conservation Federation.


Instead, his group prefers to stress education and proper animal housing. They also oppose blanket bans on public contact, arguing that federal rules allow contact with baby exotic animals and some adult animals if a "readily identifiable and knowledgeable employee" is present.


In the episode that killed Haley, authorities said that Lost Creek co-owner Doug Billingsly was holding Shakka by a restraint when the animal attacked. Billingsly's sister, Krista Moreno, has said her brother never let go of the restraint and placed himself between the tiger and Haley.


Eventually the animal had to be shot and killed. A subsequent examination revealed nothing abnormal in the animal, according to Labette County Sheriff William Blundell.


Doug Billingsly and his father, Keith Billingsly, have owned Lost Creek more than 10 years. They held federal exhibitor's permits.

Neither the owners nor their attorney could be reached for comment in recent days.


Sheriff Blundell said the local investigation is inactive. "It's been reviewed by the county attorney, and at this point it didn't warrant criminal charges," Blundell said.


But last month the U.S. Department of Agriculture filed a petition alleging several "willful" violations against Lost Creek and its owners, including not having a proper policy for public contact with animals.


"Specifically, the respondent's standard procedure was to allow the public including teenagers to have direct contact and pose for photographs, with adult tigers based on respondent Doug Billingsly's claimed ability to determine 'what kind of mood the animals were in.' ," inspectors said in their petition.


The petition also alleges that the owners failed to obtain a required agriculture license for their business. Other alleged violations include handling the tiger in a way that led to its death; not allowing federal access to the property three times in 2004 and once in January, and failing to properly house some animals, including bears, tigers and a black leopard.


Department spokesman Jim Rogers said each violation carries potential fines of up to $2,750, multiplied by the number of animals involved and the number of days in violation. The petition is awaiting an administrative hearing.


The Billingslys, in a written answer to the petition, denied any wrongdoing. They said that their licenses were in order, that Shakka was handled safely and that alleged deficiencies in animal housing either didn't exist or were repaired.


They denied keeping inspectors away, saying the officials arrived unannounced, although Lost Creek does not keep set hours.

They also denied violating public contact rules during Haley's photo session.


"The young lady involved with the pictures was not allowed to touch the cat during the photo shoot . The public has never been allowed to touch the cats for safety reasons."



What's next

¦ The Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission will discuss stricter controls on exotic animals when it meets at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at Cabela's, 10300 Cabel a


To reach Benita Y. Williams, call (816) 234-7714 or send e-mail to


The death of a teen mauled by a tiger, makes it clear: Even when exotic animals seem placid, there is .

Always a danger

killed by tiger


teenager mauled by tiger

The Kansas City Star

teenager killed by tiger

It is common for high school seniors around Altamont, Kan., to arrange their own unique, but tasteful, photos for the yearbook.

Some go to wheat fields. Others pose by streams. Haley Hilderbrand wanted to take hers with a Siberian tiger.

But at the photo session Thursday, Hilderbrand was killed when the animal she was posing with turned and attacked her. She was 17.

Because of the risk, some tiger handlers say Hilderbrand's request was one they never would have granted.

"There's not enough money in the world that would get me to do something like that," said William Pottorff, founder and director of the 11-acre Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory near Louisburg, Kan.

"I've had people call me and offer $800, $1,000 to let them bring their wife out or something and take a picture standing next to one of my tigers. I said, 'Absolutely not.' "

Hilderbrand was mauled to death shortly after 10 a.m. at the Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary and Animal Entertainment Productions, which has been owned by Doug Billingsly and his family for more than 10 years.

Billingsly could not be reached for comment Friday, but his sister Krista Moreno said he was distraught.

"He's dying inside," Moreno said. "He wanted it to be him (instead of Hilderbrand). He would have done anything to stop this. . His heart and soul goes out to that family. . It was a freak accident."

The attack occurred as Hilderbrand posed with the 7-year-old tiger, which was being restrained by Billingsly. Hilderbrand, severely bitten, died at the scene.

Moreno said her brother never let go of the restraint during the attack and put himself between the animal and Hilderbrand, whom she described a close family friend.

"He tried desperately for it (the tiger) to turn to him," she said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which licenses facilities such as Lost Creek, opened an investigation into the attack, said agency spokesman Jim Rogers. He said an investigation could take between a couple of weeks and a couple of years, depending on the circumstances.

Rogers said the agency had not investigated Lost Creek before.

The Humane Society of the United States weighed in, calling the mauling "a terrible tragedy."

"No responsible animal handler should put dangerous animals and people together," Wayne Pacelle, the Humane Society's president, said in a statement.

A similar view was echoed by the founder and director of the Keenesburg Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center in Keenesburg, Colo., near Denver. At Keenesburg, visitors must stand on a platform 35 feet above ground to view the tigers, bears, wolves and other exotic animals below.

The nonprofit organization maintains a 140-acre preserve with about 25 volunteers, but only founder and director Pat Craig comes in direct contact with the animals.

"Anytime you let the public near a wild animal, it's a recipe for disaster," Craig said. "For any trainer to think he is physically strong enough to restrain a tiger is ludicrous."

The Siberian tiger that mauled Hilderbrand is an extraordinarily powerful animal, built to hunt large animals with its large paws and long claws. It can weigh as much as 800 pounds. Fewer than 400 are living in the wild, mostly in the forests of southeastern Siberia and northern China.

Agriculture Department regulations generally require facilities to maintain sufficient distance or barriers between exotic animals and the public. But Rogers of the USDA said the law permits contact as long as a "readily identifiable and knowledgeable employee" is present.

"When you want to go up and pet an exotic cat and get your picture taken, you can do it," Rogers said, "but you have to meet certain conditions."

Pottorff said tigers can be shy and somewhat apprehensive of strangers. As they grow older, they tend to become more territorial and more protective of their space, he said.

"You just can't let somebody totally new walk up to one like that. It makes them very uneasy," Pottorff said. "I'm surprised the cat didn't take the handler out at the same time. It's the handler that pays the ultimate price in general. It's just the cat's way of saying they don't like the situation."

The first day of school at Labette County High School in Altamont was a sad one.

"It's been a pretty somber mood today," said Chris Kastler, assistant superintendent for the Altamont school district. "I've been to the home. The family is in so much pain and grief."

On Friday, crisis counselors were available to console students at the school, where Hilderbrand had earned letters in track. She ran long distance and had begun practicing with this year's team on Monday. Hilderbrand was on the yearbook staff. She was a member of the Church of the Nazarene in Parsons.

"Haley was a good student," Kastler said. "Bubbly, a pretty little blonde slender girl with a big smile."

Meanwhile on Friday, Hilderbrand's parents planned their daughter's funeral.

"She was a lovely, lovely girl and everybody loved her," said Mike Good, Hilderbrand's stepfather.

Kastler said that in the past, other high school seniors had also taken pictures with tigers at Lost Creek.

"It's become more and more popular," he said. "It's seen as sort of the cool thing to do. I don't think we will have it anymore."

However, Kastler said, the photo sessions are arranged by the families, not the school.

"We'll discourage it," he said. "That's about all we can do."

First glance

¦ Keepers of exotic animals say the photo session with a tiger should never have been allowed.

¦ Federal law permits contact with the animals as long as a "readily identifiable and know-ledgeable employee" is present.

Hilderbrand funeral

¦ Services for Haley Hilderbrand will be at 4 p.m. Monday at Parsons (Kan.) M unicipal Auditorium .

¦ Memorials are suggested to a scholarship at Labette County High School or the Nazarene Youth Ministry or Westside Christian Church in Parsons. All can be sent to Forbes-Hoffman Funeral Home, 405 Main St., Parsons, Kan. 67357. For more information visit .

To reach Benita Y. Williams, call (816) 234-7714 or send e-mail to . To reach Brad Cooper, call (816) 234-7724 or send e-mail to .


USDA probes tiger attack

Family spokeswoman retells account of girl'sdeadly photo shoot By Ron Knox
and John Hacker

Globe Staff Writers 8/20/05

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a formal investigation into possible wrongdoing after a tiger killed a girl Thursday at a Kansas animal sanctuary.

The investigation, launched just hours after the incident occurred, will examine whether Doug Billingsly, the director of the Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary, providedadequate protection during a photo shoot where a tiger killed 17-year-old Haley Hilderbrand.

"It's the fastest I've ever seen an investigation open,"said JimRogers, spokesmanfor the department.

Depending on the investigation's findings, Billingsly and the sanctuary could face steep fines, loss of their exotic animal exhibition license and possible criminal-law action, Rogers said.

Billingsly and his family said the investigation is not unexpected, and that they are not concerned by what the department's investigative unit might find.

"We've been open for 10 years," said Krista Moreno, Billingsly's sister. "There has never been a single incident like this before."

Moreno, along with her husband, Bobby, and several other of Billingsly's family members are listed as the sanctuary's officers and board of directors, documents show.

In past investigations of this nature, Rogers said, the department examined two issues: whether there were "significant barriers" between the tiger and any person in the area, and whether there was a knowledgeable expert with the tiger and another person.

When asked about the conditions at the scene, Moreno said the tiger was often held with "a thick chain, or a big strap" to keep it away from humans. Moreno said that during the incident, Billingsly was constantly with the tiger. Billingsly had also displayed the animal during conservation presentations at local schools and events.

Debbie Fouts, a neighbor and friend of the Billingslys, said Moreno described to her what happened so she could act as a family spokeswoman and speak with the media.

"My own children had their pictures taken with a different tiger a few years ago," Fouts said as she showed one photo with her two daughters sitting next to a tiger and another with her son standing next to a tiger on a separate occasion. "This is such a tragic accident. This tiger has been trained to be around people and has performed around people all its life. It was a freak accident that we all wish hadn't happened."

Fouts gave the following account of what happened:

Doug Billingsly was holding a chain hooked to the tiger's collar and Hilderbrand was straddling the tiger near the end of the photo shoot when the tiger licked her foot, startling the girl.

Hilderbrand jumped and yanked her foot away and either squealed or screamed, startling the tiger which stood up and knocked Hilderbrand to the ground. The tiger then turned and hit Hilderbrand's head with its paw, possibly breaking her neck.

Fouts said a relative of the girl obtained a gun from the Billingsly home, and shot and killed the tiger.

Fouts said the family told her on Friday that Doug Billingsly is being sedated and keeps repeating the wish that "he could have died in place of Hilderbrand."

"Doug pulled so hard on the chain to try to keep the tiger away from the girl that he ripped the skin on his hands," Fouts said. "I feel such sorrow for this child and her family, and for Doug as well. I know he's hurting, and he's hurting because of all the pain this family is going through. He's hurting because he can wake up and he knows this girl cannot."

Moreno said many of the exotic cats at the sanctuary came from Africa. Department of the Interior documents show Billingsly applied for a permit to import and export tigers in October of 1998, although the sanctuary had been open for four years at that time.

The permit's details were not available Friday afternoon.

The sanctuary was first incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in 1999 under the name Keith Billingsly, who is also listed as the company's secretary, according to incorporation documents.

Keith Billingsly is Doug Billingsly's father.

The Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Department issues both captive-bred and endangered species permits; both would have been required for the tiger. Billingsly paid the department $100 for every animal that required both permits, in addition to a one-time $200 processing fee.

The permits require animals have the proper care and transportation in-transit, information about the animal's origins and assurances from officials in other countries that the animal was not captured illegally, said Pat Fisher, a director with the department.

Both the Fish and Wildlife Department and the USDA regulate how the animal is displayed for exhibitions. Many circus animals require the same permits, Fisher said.

Displaying the animals wasn't the sole purpose of the sanctuary, Moreno said. Billingsly wanted to provide a safe haven for the animals, many of which had been abandoned or otherwise neglected in their home countries.

Moreno said she wasn't sure about the future of the sanctuary, but said the sheriff's department, parks and recreations officers and the game warden all told Billingsly to take a few weeks off from the animals since the girl's death.

"She was a family friend. He tried to put himself between her and the tiger," Moreno said. "Right now, he wishes it were him."


Tiger Kills Kansas Teen Posing for Photo

Thursday August 18, 2005 11:46 PM

MOUND VALLEY , Kan. (AP) - A Siberian tiger attacked and killed a teenage girl who was posing for photos at a family-run animal sanctuary Thursday in southeast Kansas , authorities said.

The Labette County Sheriff's office identified the victim as Haley R. Hilderbrand, 17, of Altamont . A statement from the office said Hilderbrand was at the Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary posing for photos with the 7-year-old tiger, which was being restrained by its handler, when the animal turned and attacked her.

Officers and handlers killed the animal. Emergency personnel were not able to revive Hilderbrand.

Doug Billingsly and his family opened the 80-acre sanctuary in 1994. According to the sanctuary's Web site, its animals include lions, leopards, tigers and bears. The site says the sanctuary has an affiliated Animal Entertainment Productions, which trains animals for stage performances, movies, television shows and magic shows.

Billingsly didn't immediately return a phone call for comment.

On the Net:

Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary:,1280,-5219419,00.html


HaleyTiger kills Kansas teen

Mauled while posing for pic



A Kansas teenager who was posing for her senior year photo with a Siberian tiger at an animal sanctuary was killed when the big cat suddenly clamped its jaws on her, police said yesterday.

Haley Hilderbrand was unable to escape once the 7-year-old animal pounced on her Thursday.

"The handler pulled it off of her," said Sheriff William Blundell of Labette County, Kan. "The tiger was later killed."

The 17-year-old from Altamont, Kan., was rushed to a nearby hospital and died of her wounds.

Blundell said no charges have been filed against Doug Billingsly, owner of the Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary in Mound Valley, Kan. "We're still trying to figure out what caused the tiger to attack," he said.

On Monday, all 1,000 residents of Hilderbrand's hometown are expected to attend her funeral at a municipal auditorium in nearby Parsons, Kan.

"It's a terrible tragedy," Altamont Mayor Herb Bath said. "Everybody is friends and family here whether they're related or not."

For years, Labette County High School seniors have gone to the 80-acre animal preserve to pose for pictures with the tigers. Hilderbrand was carrying on the tradition when she was attacked.

Bath said Billingsly also keeps lions and bears on his property. "He's trained the animals, used them on Hollywood movie sets," he said.

Hilderbrand's classmates and teachers were in shock yesterday.

"She was really bubbly," senior Karla Trotnic told The Joplin Globe newspaper. "She always had a smile on her face. She was really outgoing."

A crisis center was set up in the guidance counselor's office for when students return to school on Monday. On the walls were photos of other seniors posing with Billingsly's tigers.

Originally published on August 20, 2005

The HSUS Urges State, Federal Action Following Kansas Tiger Mauling

WASHINGTON - The Humane Society of the United States today expressed profound sadness following the death of 17-year-old Haley Hilderbrand, who was killed by a tiger at a U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed wildlife facility in Kansas yesterday.

"This is a horrible tragedy that should not have happened and The Humane Society of the United States expresses our condolences to Ms. Hilderbrand's family and friends," said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. "No responsible animal handler should put dangerous animals and people together. We urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state officials to investigate and take appropriate action to ensure that this does not happen again to another child."

The Siberian tiger who killed Hilderbrand was housed at the Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary Foundation and Animal Entertainment Productions located outside Mound Valley, Kan. According to the group's web site, they house 23 tigers, leopards, lions and bears. The sanctuary's entertainment division trains wild animals for stage performances, movie, television, print and magic shows, the web site indicates. Pacelle said that USDA needs to strictly enforce its own 2004 policy that expressly forbids the public from interacting directly with big cats.

"People are naturally fascinated by these wild and dangerous creatures, but that doesn't mean they should have direct access to these powerful and unpredictable animals," said Pacelle. "A spate of recent attacks demonstrates that these animals pose a threat to public safety and should only be handled by highly trained professionals in controlled environments at accredited zoos."

Congress unanimously passed the Captive Wildlife Safety Act in December 2003. The law prohibits interstate shipments of dangerous large cats for the pet trade. Nearly two years after President Bush signed the bill into law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still has not implemented regulations to enforce the law. Pacelle said that enforcement of this existing law combined with strong state laws prohibiting private ownership of dangerous animals can help to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Pacelle also points out that while this facility was licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, residents of Kansas are allowed to keep exotic big cats as pets. Two dozen states have strict rules and prohibitions on keeping dangerous wild animals as pets. Many of these restrictions have been enacted in recent years in response to an increase in the number of people seriously injured and killed by these animals.

"If people are not safe from tigers in licensed facilities with trained handlers, they're certainly not safe when their neighbor might  have a big cat in their home, backyard, or basement," said Pacelle.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization representing more than 9 million members and constituents. The non-profit organization is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals and equine protection, disaster preparedness and response, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research and farm animal welfare. The HSUS protects all animals through education, investigation, litigation, legislation, advocacy, and field work. The group is based in Washington and has numerous field representatives across the country. On the web at .

Tiger owner sought bigger venues for animals

Sanctuary remains closed in wake of investigation into fatal incident

Ronald Knox

Globe Staff Writer


When Doug Billingsly and his father, Keith, first opened the Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary in 1994, the sanctuary was supposed to be exactly that - a small home for wild and domestic animals that had nowhere else to go.

Billingsly was familiar with other, similar sanctuaries, places that served as a model for his conservationist programs. And when speaking about conservation, often at schools and town events, he would talk about the responsibilities of taking care of fur-bearing and feathered friends.

Now the sheer scope of that responsibility is being weighed by federal investigators as they continue to gather and examine evidence after a tiger killed 17-year-old Haley Hilderbrand, an Altamont, Kan. , girl, at Billingsly's sanctuary more than two weeks ago.

Although Billingsly did not return several phone calls to comment for this story, Billingsly's family members have said that the sanctuary will remain closed as they try to recover from the incident.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which inspects and licenses exotic animal compounds, has been gathering evidence to see if Billinglsy used the required restraints during a photo shoot where Hilderbrand was allegedly straddling the tiger.

Billingsly, according to a spokeswoman for the family, was holding a chain hooked to the tiger's collar and Hilderbrand was straddling the tiger near the end of the photo shoot when the tiger licked her foot, startling the girl.

Hilderbrand jumped and yanked her foot away and either squealed or screamed, startling the tiger which stood up and knocked Hilderbrand to the ground. The tiger then turned and hit Hilderbrand's head with its paw, possibly breaking her neck.

A relative of the girl obtained a gun from the Billingsly home, and shot and killed the tiger.

The department requires animal handlers to place "significant barriers" between animals and humans, said Jim Rogers, spokesman for the department.

Rogers said he didn't know when the investigation might conclude. Because the investigation was continuing, no more information was available, Rogers said.

But, by using public documents along with interviews from several of Billingsly's former associates, the Globe was able to provide a glimpse of Billingsly - a conservationist interested in both preserving his big cats and becoming a player in the exotic-animal market.

Seeking broader audience

After some experience with big animals - he kept bears at the sanctuary - Billingsly received his first big cat at the sanctuary around October, 1994, records show.

But as time passed, Billingsly apparently realized that the world of entertainment reached a wider audience - an audience that needed to see the cats to understand the importance of conservation.

"It is quite obvious that something beyond education is required," Billingsly wrote to the Department of the Interior in 1999.

In the late 1990s, Billingsly traveled with a Vegas-style show called Randy Miller's Predators in Action, where cats performed in magic shows. The show traveled to Malaysia , Singapore and Thailand , with Billingsly assisting another handler while Miller stayed in Los Angeles .

During those tours, Billingsly helped lead four of Miller's big cats through the show.

Miller, in a phone interview, said his primary handler always took the necessary precautions with the animals, and showed Billinglsy how to do the same.

"He was taught to have the proper equipment - pepper spray, a cane," Miller said. "If one of the animals gets out of control, it's not a fair fight."

After Miller and Billingsly parted ways, Billinglsy made his way to Las Vegas , where big cats are as much a part of the shows as showgirls and slot machines.

For a time, Billingsly bounced from job to job, said Keith Evans, owner of Lion Photo Studios, where guests can get their pictures taken with big cats.

Evans said Billingsly worked for him for three months in 1999 between other jobs around Vegas. He worked in the lions' habitat at the studio, caring for the cats.

Evans said Billingsly never worked with the animals during the photo sessions.

Back home, records show the sanctuary incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation, with Billinglsy as the director and his father Keith as the secretary, signing all of the checks and money orders Billingsly needed for his federal permits. Records show the shelter held three African lions and six tigers ready to be bred.

Canadian links

In the fall of 2002, Art Frewin, a magic and theater promoter, got a call from a friend in Las Vegas .

An old friend told him about a kid who was out there working with big cats. He needed some work, she said, and he seemed like he knew what he was doing.

"It was a mutual friend of ours," said Jerry Frewin, Art's wife. "He said he needed money for this project. He seemed like a nice enough kid."

Jerry Frewin said Billingsly wanted a place where he could find a steady audience for tigers on tour. The couple, who live in Ontario , thought Canada might work.

By 2002, Billingsly's Mound Valley collection of cats and other animals had grown exponentially. He had 14 tigers, five lions, 10 bears, a liger (offspring of a male lion and a female tiger) and two other cats at the sanctuary.

Billingsly had also began to trade big cats in large quantity. During the year he planned his tour of Canada , he traded seven tigers to a place in Mathis , Texas , called Wayne 's World Safari. That same year, Billingsly also sent three tigers back to Vegas, to a magician and showman named Rick Thomas.

Billingsly gave Art Frewin the power of attorney in August of 2002, with Sharon Billinglsy serving as notary, so that Frewin could help set up the Canada trip and negotiate in the often complex world of importing and exporting exotic animals.

Two weeks later, Frewin sent a letter and an informational packet to the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service explaining the Canadian tiger tour.

"Our intent is to try to determine if there is enough support to establish a Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary Foundation in Canada ," Frewin wrote.

The applications Frewin sent included a younger tiger and an older tiger to accommodate different-sized events around the country.

But the department never got the chance to approve the tour. By the end of 2002, Frewin said her husband had dissolved their relationship for business reasons.

Show biz

Billingsly quickly turned to other projects. He had made appearances on television and his cats had found their way into movies and shows around the country.

Then, that same year, Billingsly began lending animals to Gianni Mattiolo, a fairly well-known animal exhibitionist who tours cats around Europe and Asia .

Mattiolo took one tiger from Billingsly in 2002, complete with all of the appropriate Department of the Interior permits.

In November that year, Billingsly applied to send two more cats to Italy with Mattiolo. But when the department received the application, some parts were missing, including the application money, the department said.

Trade lawyers representing Billingsly at the time corresponded back and forth with the department, and finally Billingsly and Mattiolo had to re-apply for the permits in January 2003.

By November 2003, Mattiolo had the cats. But the department apparently never had the permits.

"We have no record of a permit being issued that would authorize the transport of these specimens to Italy ," Tim Van Norman, the department's permit chief, said in an April 2004 letter to Billingsly.

Billingsly's lawyer at the time said he didn't remember how the issue was resolved, but a search of the federal registry shows only the application, not the permit.

"It certainly doesn't appear by the public record that there was ever a resolution to this issue," John Kalitka, Billingsly's former attorney, said in a phone interview.

Kalitka now works in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The department took no formal action against Billingsly.

After that, Billingsly's rotating stock of big cats slowed down. In 2004, he loaned out four cats, while he oversaw the birth of three others, records show. He stopped breeding lions and all but two bears, and his tiger breeding leveled off.

During 2004, Billingsly remained in contact with Mattiolo, scheduling another transfer of cats to Italy - a tiger and two leopards - for this summer.

But at the sanctuary in quiet Mound Valley , two days before the tigers were supposed to leave, a startled cat reached out and killed Haley Hilderbrand.

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Family, friends of tiger victim plead for animal restrictions


By Chris Green

Harris News Service

TOPEKA - Relatives and friends of a Labette County teenager killed by a tiger
last year urged legislators Tuesday to enact tight restrictions on private
owners of dangerous exotic animals.

A bill before the Senate Ways and Means Committee would force owners of large,
wild cats and bears to maintain a license from the federal agriculture department.

The animals would be barred from contact with the public.

In emotional testimony, Haley Hilderbrand's mother and stepfather told the
committee that changes in the bill would help prevent future attacks.

"I hope that no one ever again has to inform his or her family of a death
or injury caused by a dangerous exotic animal," parent Mike Good said.

Hilderbrand, 17, was mauled while posing for a senior portrait with a Siberian
tiger at the Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary in Mound Valley.

Her parents, Mike and Ronda Good, said she probably was unaware that there
was any danger from the tiger, which was being restrained by a handler.

Hilderbrand's grandfather, sisters, church pastor and high school friends
also testified in support of the legislation during the nearly two-hour hearing.

The bill before the committee would place restrictions on the ownership of
lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, mountain lions and bears, along
with hybrid-breeds of those animals.

Animal owners would be forced to meet federal caging and care guidelines.
They'd also be required to notify the public and local officials about their
animals; carry liability insurance worth at least $250,000; and have a written
recovery plan for potential escapes.

Accredited zoos and registered wildlife sanctuaries would not be impacted.

However, some animal-owner advocates asked lawmakers to make the regulations
too onerous or ban exotic cats outright.

Matt Baker, an Atchison exotic cat breeder, said Hilderbrand's death was unfortunate
but said he considered it to be the result of improper handling.

"There is no need to punish those who follow the law because this one person
did not," Baker said.

County and state officials said state laws were inadequate to deal with a
growing problem because they didn't restrict ownership of large cats.

Exhibitors of big cats do have some federal government oversight and some
local governments have enacted their own restrictions.

"Our present laws leave the door open for other accidents to happen and the
safety of the public to be in jeopardy," Sen. Greta Goodwin, D-Winfield, said.

Wildlife and Parks Secretary Mike Hayden said tougher laws would keep the
state from becoming a haven for exotic animal owners fleeing other states'

Senate budget Chairman Dwayne Umbarger, R-Thayer, said he expects the bill
to come up for discussion again sometime next week.

"I'm hoping that at the end of this season, we will win this game," said Umbarger,
who introduced the legislation to the committee.

3/31/06 As a result, Kansas recently passed a bill in the House and Senate
to ban contact with dangerous animals.


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