Other captive wildlife cases illustrate the risks

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  November/December 2011:

The release of 56 large exotic and dangerous animals from the
Muskingum County Animal Farm and subsequent killing of 48 of the
animals on October 19,  2011 was not unprecedented.
Fifteen lion/tiger hybrids called ligers were on September
21,  1995 shot by a neighboring landowner and a 50-member sheriff’s
posse after breaking out of the Ligertown Game Farm in Lava Hot
Springs,  Idaho.

Ligertown co-owner Robert Fieber previously ran a game ranch
in Oregon.  Charged with 54 counts of animal cruelty in 1984,  Fieber
pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor counts pertaining to food
storage.  Moving to Idaho,  Fieber and Ligertown partner Dotti Martin
ran into trouble in 1986 when one of their lions was shot while
stalking a neighbor’s horse.  Ordered to build better cages,  they
moved to the Lava Hot Springs site,  where in 1989 they were
convicted of running a wildlife park without a permit but won a
reversal when a judge ruled that the legal definition of “wildlife
park” was too inspecific.  Ligertown was closed after 24 surviving
lions and three tigers were removed to the Wildlife Waystation
sanctuary just east of Los Angeles.

Escapes are common even at American Zoo
Association-accredited zoos,  which must have rehearsed escape
response protocols and have equipment on hand to enable prompt
recaptures.  Within a week of the Muskingum County Animal Farm
incident,  a 21-year-old male Indian rhino bumped a gate open and
wandered through Zoo Miami for 25 minutes;  a Grevy’s zebra foal and
her mother pranced around the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston for an
hour;  and an African lion spent nearly an hour in a service hallway
at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle after escaping from a sleeping
den.  In each of those cases the animals were contained by secondary
barriers.  The lion was sedated with a tranquilizer dart.  No humans
were injured in any of the incidents.

An October 17 episode in West Odessa,  Texas was more typical
of incidents involving large carnivores in private hands.  Attacked
by a pet puma,   “A 4-year-old boy received lacerations and puncture
wounds on his left side,  including a bite mark on the left side of
his face,”  reported Jon Vanderlaan of the Odessa American.  “Amber
Michelle Couch was given a citation for not keeping up the vaccines
on the animal,  Corporal Sherrie Carruth with the Odessa Police
Department said.  According to a neighbor and family member,  Couch
is the boy’s aunt.”

Added Vanderlaan,  “Texas and county laws declare that
dangerous animals in unincorporated areas must be registered,  and
owners must adhere to a strict set of rules.  The animal wasn’t
registered.  Carruth said the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department told
animal control in July that it did not need to be.  Chris Mitchell, a
spokesman with the TPWD, said there would be no circumstance under
which the department would advise anyone they did not need a permit
for a puma.  Even in situations when a permit may be issued,  such as
for research or rehabilitation,  he said the TPWD does not issue such
permits and that would be left to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.”

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