Feds seize 4 tigers; claim they need care
GARY — Roy "Roy Boy" Cooper, Glen Park's famed tattoo artist, waited in his office Thursday as federal agents seized four tigers who lived for years at his parlor on Broadway.
He said he's had an exhibitor's license for nearly half a century, possibly longer than anyone in the country, and he said the U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to make an example of someone.
"I don't believe I'm a criminal," Cooper said.
But USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said Cooper's tigers were underweight and lethargic when inspectors visited earlier this week, and he said Cooper did nothing to correct the situation.
"We don't waste any time when we see suffering animals," Sacks said.
Cooper's tiger handlers and local fans watched as agents tranquilized and took away two white tigers named Storm and Pearl, a gold bengal named Kyla and a gold Siberian named Cali. At least one tiger seemed awake and alert as its cage was loaded into a moving van with the others.
"That's cruelty to animals," John Higgins, one of the tiger's handlers, complained.
Sacks said agents took the tigers to a USDA-licensed sanctuary in an undisclosed location. He said Cooper has little chance of getting them back.
"They're no longer his property," Sacks said.
Inspection reports on the USDA's Web site show most routine inspections of Cooper's animal care ended with no problems.
His shop on the east side of Broadway's 3800 block burned down in 2008, and inspectors said they had trouble contacting him days later. Cooper took his shop to Broadway's west side.
In December, the USDA complained Cooper's outdoor housing shelter didn't offer his tigers proper protection from the cold weather.
"The floor of the pen was covered in snow and the added hay at the front of the pen was wet," inspectors wrote. "The tiger did not have a dry place to rest."
Inspectors also said Cooper kept three tigers too close to a public area.
"One person in this area was seen reaching into the enclosures and petting one of the tigers," inspectors wrote.
A February inspection took no issue with Cooper's handling of the tigers. Last month, though, inspectors said one tiger's perimeter fence was in disrepair and three tigers were in poor health.
"One is excessively thin with hip bones showing," inspectors wrote. "The three tigers housed indoors all have hair loss and areas of irritation."
Sacks said Cooper received a notice of confiscation earlier this week and could have avoided Thursday's scene by making an attempt to correct the situation.
"There's no appeal to be made if your animals are suffering," Sacks said.
Cooper said he thinks the USDA wants to prove it's doing its job because of a series of high-profile animal attacks.
"I try to do everything they write me up for," Cooper said, adding that he stayed inside at the direction of federal agents.
Many people watching from Broadway's sidewalks, meanwhile, defended Cooper as a long-time Gary businessman whose exotic animals were well cared for and behaved around children.
"I can't believe they're doing this," Katina Broaden said. gary tattoo parlor
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