Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Texas county banning exotic animals

Officials abandon 2001 decision, allow just 5 owners to keep critters

06:21 AM CDT on Tuesday, March 27, 2007
By JIM GETZ / The Dallas Morning News

Owners of lions and tigers and bears can forget about moving to Kaufman County.

County commissioners voted 3-1 Monday to allow the five known owners of exotic animals in the county to continue keeping the animals but banned any others, including those who could team up with current owners.

The commissioners' order also requires any of the owners – Doug Terranova of Terranova Enterprises, Marcus Cook of Zoo Dynamics, Gary Holliman of PrideRock Wildlife Refuge, James Hall of Castle's Bears and serval owners Beth and Corey Junell – to get commissioners' approval before buying more land to expand their operations.

Commissioner Jim Deller cast the lone "no" vote. He wanted a complete ban, noting that Kaufman County's population has risen to an estimated 98,350, about 25,000 more than in 2001, when Kaufman County voted to register exotics instead of ban them.

"I don't want to see those kinds of animals in the county if we can prevent it," Mr. Deller said after Monday's meeting. "All the counties around us have banned them, except for zoos."

A "dangerous wild animal" law that the Legislature passed in 2001 gave counties the choice of banning the animals or registering them. The vast majority of counties banned the listed animals, including exotic cats, bears, coyotes, baboons, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Animals not deemed dangerous include elephants, wolves, rhinos, other primates and reptiles.

Kaufman County officials, despite voting more than five years ago for registration, have never enforced the requirement. Only the Junells, whose three African cats each weigh less than 40 pounds, have registered.

The issue came to a head in recent months after two events: First, a tiger mauled a lawn worker on Mr. Cook's property last summer, although it did not escape the compound. Then, another Kaufman County resident had livestock killed by what a game warden suspected was a big cat. It couldn't be determined whether the animal was an exotic cat or a native mountain lion.

The commissioners' order did not explicitly require registration by the remaining owners, but Dallas lawyer Robert "Skip" Trimble, who worked with legislators writing the 2001 law and advised commissioner Jerry Rowden on the writing of Kaufman County's updated order, said any county that does not ban exotics must register them.

Mr. Terranova and Mr. Cook told the commissioners Monday that they would have no problem complying with registration and inspections but did not favor a total ban.

"With the stroke of a pen, you could technically make me an illegal citizen," Mr. Terranova said. "I don't see how you can do that."

"Inspection and registration are nothing new to us," said Mr. Cook, noting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected his operation 14 times in the last three years. "We welcome it 110 percent."

Mr. Terranova said that because of the USDA inspections, he and other owners maintain safety practices strict enough that the rapid migration of new residents into Kaufman County shouldn't matter. An animal trainer, Mr. Terranova also said he was willing to work with the sheriff if any animal needed to be captured.

Sheriff David Byrnes was unsure how much time, money or manpower it would take to register the current owners and enforce the law against others. He said he would get expert advice on how to capture a big cat if one escapes and where to take it.

"We'll use common sense," he said. "Obviously, we're not going to go jerking around a tiger."

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/ stories/DN-lionstigersbears_27eas.ART. State.Edition1.441f957.html#

Friday, March 23, 2007

S.C.: Exotic animal ban passes as 'dangerous animal regulations'

By Stephen Guilfoyle / Editor

Chester County Council gave final approval to a ban on exotic animals Wednesday night, and it appears that the Tiger World issue that prompted it is over.

Lea M. Jaunakais, whose zoning request in January touched off some lively discussion about "exotic" animals and dangerous animals in Chester County was scheduled to speak for about 15 minutes at the council's meeting Wednesday, but neither she nor any of her core group of supporters showed up.

She had wanted to put up to 50 exotic animals, mostly big cats like tigers and lions, on a 40 acre tract on Simple Farm Road that she bought in December

County Council went ahead and, with a couple of changes, gave final approval to ban on exotic animals.

But the change might turn out to be significant. County Attorney Joanie Winters defended the ordinance as written, saying she had researched it before preparing it and researched other ordinances after preparing it.

Councilman Joe Branham said he preferred the ordinance to say "dangerous animals" where it said "exotic."

The council voted down the ordinance with the terms exotic in it. It then took up an amendment from Branham to change the term to "dangerous" animals and that motion passed.

Supporters of a ban on exotic animals were a little perplexed when Winters said the ordinance she prepared regulates exotic animals, but is not an outright ban on all.

Councilman Alex Oliphant made the initial motion for the ordinance, and he called for a ban on exotic animals.

Winters said the ordinance regulates "exotic" - now dangerous - animals that are already in the county.

It does ban any additional dangerous animals from being brought in, if the owners intend to exhibit the animals, Winters said.

As it was worded for second reading, it would not prevent people from keeping exotic animals as pets or for breeding purposes, she said.

Councilwoman Mary Guy said she would feel comfortable if the word exotic had remained in the ordinance.

One woman who was leaving questioned if the change.

A dog kept as a household pet might be considered dangerous, she said, and subject to removal under the ordinance.

"Did we do the right thing?" she said.

http://www.onlinechester.com/articles/2007/03/22/ headlines/breakingnews1.txt

Missouri town council reviews exotic animal regulations

by Jaime Baranyai - Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2007 7:19 PM CDT

Most of City Council's Monday night meeting centered on the lengthy discussion about the City of Rolla's Animal Control Regulations -- a sensitive issue council members are already debating about and one that's sure to pull at the heart strings of pet owners in Rolla.

First, a preface to the discussion. Rolla Police Department Lt. Jim Macormic was assigned as the staff liaison for an Ad Hoc Committee for the review of several animal ordinances. The specific issues discussed were: 1) Regulating the number of dogs and cats per household. 2) Proactive registration or outright banning of certain breeds of dogs with aggressive tendencies. 3) Regulations regarding "exotic" animals. The committee has completed its review of these ordinances and has summarized its recommendations for the city. Staff recommendations are as follows:....

* The proposed "exotic animal" ordinance should be implemented, which now defines exotic animals and removes the responsibility of the city administrator and police chief on decision-making for each individual case. (An "exotic animal" means any animal which, when in its wild state, is capable [while at large] of inflicting serious physical harm upon human beings. A list of what qualifies as an "exotic animal" is also available)....

City Administrator John Butz reminded the council members (and others at Monday night's meeting) that these issues were still in the discussion phase.

"Right now these are just recommendations for an ordinance," Butz said. "These recommendations are going to raise a lot of questions and create a lot of feedback. This is something that tugs at peoples' heart strings because this is their pets you're talking about. We need to take our time on this issue and have a public hearing about it soon -- people are going to have things to say."

http://www.therolladailynews.com/articles/2007/03/ 21/news/news01.txt

Saturday, March 03, 2007

East Texas county ponders pet wild things

KAUFMAN, Texas -- For years, Kaufman County has cultivated a reputation as something of a haven for exotic wild animals and their owners, a place where elephants, monkeys and big cats might be as at home on the range as cattle, pigs and dogs.

But after a tiger mauling and the discovery of dead and mangled livestock, this East Texas gateway is reconsidering its historically relaxed approach to regulating exotic _ and some say dangerous _ animals.

While more than 70 percent of Texas counties prohibit keeping dangerous wild animals as pets, Kaufman County is among the few in the state that lets its 89,000 residents keep a giraffe or bear with the right paperwork.

But county leaders are now try to decide how to regulate their growing animal kingdom _ if not evict the county's half-dozen known exotic animals owners altogether.

The issue comes as other counties are defining just how "wild" a wild animal they're prepared to tolerate. In Kendall County, just north of San Antonio, commissioners there are in a give-and-take process of deciding whether to ban certain exotic birds or reptiles, pitting property rights against public health and safety concerns.

"I wish we could find some identity we could promote," Kaufman County commissioner Jerry Rowden said. "But I don't think it needs to be exotic wild animals."

A decision in Kaufman County could come this month.

At the very least, Rowden wants the county to stop any more exotic animals owners shooed away elsewhere from seeking refuge in Kaufman.

That includes folks like Beth Junell, who pays $1 a pound for horse meat freshly processed from the local Dallas Crown Inc. and serves it to her three servals _ small African cats that grow to about 40 pounds and are included on the state's list of dangerous wild animals.

The Junells moved to Kaufman last year after they were effectively run out of nearby Combine, a town of 1,700. They lived there just three months before neighbors _ including a nearby school _ complained and the city passed an ordinance banning servals.

"There was the thought of one of those cats being loose, jumping the fence and mauling one of those kids," said former Combine city councilman Mike Ellison. "A lot of people also have dogs in their yard. If one or two of those things got loose, there was a fear those cats would go picking them off."

Servals join bobcats, baboons and 16 other animals classified as a "dangerous wild animal" under a 2001 Texas law. Each locale decides how it will deal with such animals, though most ban them entirely. Some counties _ about 13 percent _ adopt the most liberal option allowed by the law and merely require that owners register their animals, according to a 2005 survey by Dallas attorney and animal activist Skip Trimble.

The law does not apply to zoos, research facilities and sanctuaries like Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation near Kendalia. Lynn Cuny, the center's executive director, says it inhumane to keep wild animals in a backyard refuge and wants all counties to outlaw the practice.

"Texas is a huge state with a lot of private property and not a lot of federal land," Cuny said. "There's not much in the way of regulation or enforcement. ...It's simply not morally right to be doing this to animals."

Such a ban would force Doug Terranova and dozens of exotic animals off his ranch, where his elephants and camels are visible from the road winding in front of his property. The menagerie includes the University of Houston's official cougar mascot, an elderly timberwolf that appeared in "Walker, Texas Ranger" television series and a spider monkey set to appear in an episode of "Prison Break" on the Fox network.

Some of the 60 animals on Terranova's property are owned by others who live in neighboring counties with bans. He says no animals have escaped in the 17 years he's owned the operation.

"If you tell me I can't replace my tigers or pass this down to my children, you're going to put me out of business," Terranova said.

Such concerns are not lost on those who are weighing possible changes in Kaufman County's laws restricting wild animals.

"The easiest thing to do would be just to ban everything," said Rowden, the county commissioner. But he also respects the interests of exotic animal owners who've lived in the county for decades and knows the county hasn't had any major problems yet. A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector even determined that an escaped cat most likely didn't kill the ranchers livestock.

A possible compromise might be a "grandfather clause" allowing those in the county who have such animals to keep them, but others from taking up residence and imposing breeding restrictions.

It's an issue the Beth and Cory Junell will be closely watching. The couple has spent $9,000 on a double-layered cage outside their house and thousands more on insurance. They'd like to offset the costs by breeding the Servals with domestic housecats to produce savannahs, a fashionable exotic pet the couple says can fetch upward of $5,000 for each kitten.

But what they're not going to do, they said, is just surrender their servals.

"Is the alternative to destroy whatever is out there?" said Corey Junell. "We took on the responsibility. I'm not going to put my animals down."


On the Net:

Kaufman County, http://www.kaufmancounty.net/

Animal Encounters, http://www.animalencounters.net/

http://www.kristv.com/global/story.asp? s=6164993&ClientType=Printable