Feb. 24, 2005 -- -- A tiger the roamed the hills the Ventura County, Calif., for more than two weeks before authorities shot that dead -- just thousands of yards native a soccer ar where youngsters were playing -- to be the victim of anyone did no report his escape as lot as he to be of the bullet that killed him, officials and animal protection groups say.

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With thousands of huge cats living in people"s homes and in private menageries throughout the country, this latest incident more dramatizes the dangers to people and the pets themselves once exotic animals are preserved as pets, wildlife officials and animal protection groups agree.

It was not the way California authorities want their find to end.

"Obviously people are angry," claimed Lorna Bernard, a spokeswoman with the California room of Fish and also Game, which had been directing the search for the big cat. "Somebody owned this animal and has however to come forward and take responsibility. I think the anger is more appropriately command at everyone that person is."

It is illegal in California to have actually a tiger, lion or other big cat as a pet, however there are around two dozen rescue or exhibitor work that have actually permits to have actually the animals, Fish and also Game spokesman troy Swauger said.

Investigators have actually "some leads" as to who could have own the tiger, bernard said, however refused to walk into any detail.

"It is extremely unfortunate the the pet paid the price because that its owner"s carelessness," she said. "I uncover it puzzling the this person wouldn"t have actually come forward, offered the far-reaching risk come public safety and to the animal. It seems that worry for the tiger"s safety would outweigh any type of worry around getting in trouble."

The owner can have recommend the trackers about the animal"s character, around what it liked to eat, and also whether it had actually been declawed or defanged, every one of which would have helped them, young name said.

Approximately two weeks aznjke.com, Fish and Game removed about 20 animals, consisting of several tigers, indigenous a sanctuary near where the tiger was killed Wednesday, however Bernard claimed all the pets that were an alleged to be at the sanctuary were accounted for.

Risk the Violence

Fish and Game trackers, aided by neighborhood police, had been make the efforts to uncover the pet day and night because that eight days, ever because they an initial heard reports the a big cat can be roaming around. Simply Tuesday lock learned that the animal had to be on the loose at the very least 10 days longer than they had thought, when they znjke.comt a photo of a track tackled Feb. 8 the matched others believed to have come indigenous the animal.

They had tried to entice the animal with traps baited through stillborn calves and also znjke.comat and also chicken meat, but didn"t capture sight of the pet until Wednesday, as soon as it to be nearing a playground and also a real estate development. The trackers make the decision come shoot the cat with a bullet rather than a tranquilizer due to the fact that they fear it was too close come them and also to various other people.

"We felt the under the scenarios we could not risk having actually the animal bolt and harm someone," young name said. "Obviously, the longer it was roaming around, it was getting an ext hungry and an ext and more disoriented."

The fate that the tiger in southern California was shared by a tiger called Bobo who escaped indigenous his owner in Palm coast County, Fla., critical summer. Bobo to be shot by police who assumed the animal, roaming through a residential neighborhood, could be all set to attack.

"The civilization who space to blame space the people who room breeding huge cats and also selling them to the public," stated Michael Markarian, a vice chairman of the Humane culture of the unified States and president the the fund for Animals. "Nobody wants to check out an animal shot or killed, however unfortunately there aren"t plenty of options."

The number of privately held big cats favor tigers and also lions is staggering. Markarian said the HSUS approximates there space as numerous as 10,000 in homes and private compounds. The Captive Wild pet Protection Coalition approximates there might be double that number, v as many as 7,000 many tigers alone.

Both teams agree that many of those animals are hosted by personal exhibitors, however others are kept as pets.

The number are tough to pond down due to the fact that most states carry out not manage possession of exotic pets, and many of those the do, such as California, require only that a person obtain a permit, but that allow does no limit the number of animals they deserve to have.

And a permit does not mean that animals are well cared for, Markarian and CWAPC spokeswoman Kim Haddad agreed.

Science or Politics?

John Weinhart, for example, had actually 75 tigers, leopards, lions and other cat living in ~ his Colton, Calif., operation once he to be raided through Fish and also Game police officers in 2003. Weinhart, who had a U.S. Room of farming permit to have the animals, also had 90 dead adult tigers and 58 dead tiger cubs in a freezer.

He to be convicted Tuesday of 56 counts of animal abuse, consisting of 14 felonies. His sentencing is reserved for in march 22.

That instance does not represent the vast majority of instances in which big cats or other pets are privately held, and also Pat Hoctor, of animal Finders Guide, a publishing for the exotic pet trade, said personal owners too regularly get a bad name from groups like HSUS and also state officials.

"Why would certainly you think the a municipality would be any much better prepared to execute anything 보다 a exclusive citizen?" claimed Hoctor, who stated he has actually owned 40 huge cats himself.

He claimed the industry is already sufficiently regulated and also said the problems raised by groups like HSUS may be more about a political civilization view than about science.

"Whether it"s speak a motorcycle, a seat belt in your automobile or owning guns, once the liberals all have us in a bubble somewhere, will they be happy?" he said.

Tigers "a Dime a Dozen"

There room other worries involved, though, according to the animal protection groups. The fund for pets cared because that 54 adult tigers, leopards and also lions the were found at Weinhart"s Tiger Rescue, and also had trouble finding houses for castle in zoos or sanctuaries, Markarian said.

"There just aren"t many places to take these animals," he said. "All sanctuaries and also reputable zoos space filled to capacity since these pets are a dime a dozen in this country."

That can seem weird -- and even an argument for encouraging the trade in exotic pets -- since their numbers are dwindling in the wild. But Markarian claimed that is not the case.

"These animals are no pure genetically," the said. "They are different types of tigers who have been combined for the pet trade. These points are essentially mutts and they"re not beneficial for conservation purposes."

The large cat that was found living in a new York City apartment in 2003, for example, was found to be a mix of Bengal and Siberian tigers.

Legal Efforts

The exploration of that pet so shocked brand-new York the the state Legislature conveniently passed a regulation making the illegal to own a large cat, yet there are still 30 claims where it is legal, and the only federal regulation related come such pets is a half on federal znjke.comvernment trade.

CWAPC concentrates on make the efforts to gain legislation happen to additional restrict exclusive ownership of huge cats and also other exotic animals. The team keeps track of cases involving exotic pets, and their statistics show the threats to both humans and also the animals themselves.

Over the previous year, the team has tape-recorded the deaths the 15 big cats and the to escape of 29 from exclusive owners. In the exact same time, one human was killed and 16 others were injured in run-ins with the animals.

"People check out baby tigers v bottles in your mouths and also they obtain this perception the these pets can be tamed," Haddad said. "They think they"ll take it a tiger cub, put a bottle in that is mouth and also tame it."

And for human being who look at a lion or tiger and see a big house cat, she says they may not it is in too much off the mark.

"Cats space unpredictable, they"re very smart and also they with a allude when they explode. If they gain mad in ~ you, they get in fight mode," she said. "Imagine the strength a little 12-pound cat has and also multiply the by the weight a tiger has."

Hoctor, though, said such figures are overblown.

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"There"s been more people killed by Jersey bulls than ever before by lions or tigers and we keep them behind 3 strings that barbed wire," the said.