Game officials find lion cub at Scott County home
Thursday, March 02, 2006
By KEVIN CASTLE
Members of the Scott County Sheriff’s Department, game wardens and the county’s animal control officer visited Dr. Marc Bradley’s property in the Snowflake community to check on the condition of a lion and other animals that he owns, including a number of camels. Erica Yoon photo.
SNOWFLAKE – State game officials are planning to take custody of a 7-month-old African lion cub following the execution of a search warrant at the home of a Scott County doctor earlier this week.
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) media relations coordinator Julia Dixon said Wednesday that several animal regulatory officials, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Section, inspected the property owned by Dr. Marc Bradley on Monday after members of the Snowflake community voiced concern about the welfare of the animal.
Members of the Scott County Sheriff’s Department, game wardens employed by VDGIF and Scott County’s animal control officer visited Bradley’s property to check on the condition of the lion and other exotic animals that he owns and cares for on his farm, including a number of camels.
Attorney Sid Rhoton, who is representing Bradley, said the county animal control officer did not disclose who lodged the inquiry into the lion’s well-being. Rhoton said Bradley was told by state game officials he was not required to have a permit prior to purchasing the lion.
"Marc contacted VDGIF prior to getting the lion, and he was told that unless the (lion) was going to be on public display, a permit was not needed," Rhoton said Wednesday.
"After the search warrant was executed, (the VDGIF) office is now telling him that a permit is now required to keep the lion on his property and that the lion must be used in such activities as educational programs."
Dixon said Monday’s investigation "turned up unlawful possession of an African lion," but no charges have been placed against Bradley pending further research into the case by state and federal officials.
"There are a list of predatory and undesirable animals, and the African lion is on that list," she said.
"There are animals that you cannot legally own without a permit in Virginia, and frankly permitting them would only be done (in terms of) research, scientific study, or as an exhibitor or educator," Dixon said. "Even then, that list of animals that are on (the list), that would be closely scrutinized before anybody would be permitted to have them."
Dixon added that the USDA has its own permitting process for citizens who want to own or possess exotic animals.
A representative from the USDA Wildlife Division could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Rhoton issued a statement to the Times-News on behalf of his client, stating that he has followed the letter of the law when it comes to having such an exotic animal on his property.
"We have abided by all of the laws and regulations for our exotic animals. I am currently clearing any miscommunication with the (VDGIF). Our farm has always provided a safe and healthy environment for our animals and will continue to do so in the future. We are in the process of developing a wildlife program for children and families," said Bradley’s statement.
Rhoton said that prior to and after the lion was purchased, the doctor worked closely with USDA agent Cindy Lyle about the care and containment of the animal.
He added that Bradley has volunteered his time and his camels for several charitable and school-related functions.
As for "Simba," which Bradley says he named after the popular lion cub cartoon character from Disney’s "The Lion King," VDGIF officials are currently making arrangements for the lion to be placed in an appropriate facility until the legal ramifications are sorted out, possibly in a court of law.
For now, Simba remains on Bradley’s property in a USDA-approved holding cage until authorities take custody of him.
"We want to stress to everyone in the Snowflake community and to others who are concerned that this lion is in excellent health, has been well taken care of, and poses no threat to anyone," Rhoton concluded.
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