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Wesa-A-Geh-Ya Owner Faces New Charges on Missing Cats

 

Last modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 8:31 AM CDT

Wesa-A-Geh-Ya owner faces new charges

By Sarah Whitney

Ken Smith, owner of the wildlife facility Wesa-A-Geh-Ya, is once again facing charges.

Smith was charged May 13 with failure to maintain accurate records of a wildlife breeder with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The charges resulted from one cougar and two wolves that were registered but were not at the facility during a Missouri Department of Conservation inspection.

"It's a different violation of keeping track of the animals," Warren County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Wright said about the new charges.

Smith has maintained his innocence regarding the most recent and past charges during a telephone interview.

"It's all the same stuff," he said.

Wright said his office has contacted Smith's lawyer in an effort to resolve the new charges.

The charges followed a May 6 judgment that found Smith guilty of failing to register dangerous wild animals with the Warren County Sheriff's Department.

In that case, Associate Circuit Judge Wes Dalton determined that Wesa-A-Geh-Ya was not a wildlife sanctuary. The distinction would have made the facility exempt from registering its nearly 50 animals, including tigers, lions and wolves, with local law enforcement officials.

Smith is serving two years of court-supervised probation. If he has no additional charges on his record, after that time, the charges will not go on his record.

The most recent charge did not violate Smith's probation because it occurred before he was sentenced for the first charge, Wright said.

Thursday morning, Warren County Sheriff Kevin Harrison sent a letter to Warren County Commissioners requesting that they pass an ordinance that would clearly distinguish jurisdiction and rules regarding housing exotic and wild animals in Warren County.

The Smiths could not be reached for comment at their Warren County home before Journal press time.

The request is in response to an increase in residents' calls to his department expressing concern after Ken and Sandra Smith announced their intentions to expand the facility, Harrison said.

"I am requesting a county ordinance that would prohibit these animals altogether," he said in a phone interview. "Naturally, existing animals would be grandfathered in, but it would cap the animals."

Southern Commissioner Randy Lewis said the commission is waiting to see what actions the state takes.

Harrison said he understands the Smiths have a right to keep their animals, but he also has to look out for the public safety of the community.

In the letter he wrote: "This facility has always posed potential public safety threats, and distinct challenges to my department. We can no longer sit idle and allow this facility to operate unregulated within our community."