By Doug Marner
News Leader Pictorial
May 26 2007
A Siberian tiger in the Valley is a little too close for comfort for one woman who lives less than a mile from the massive feline which escaped its cage last week.
RCMP believe at on May 21 someone tampered with the cage at Primate Estates that was holding Susy, a 200-pound tiger, and it was loose on Cowichan Lake Road for about 20 minutes before owner Jamie Bell retrieved the animal.
Corey Bath — who is circulating a petition supporting legislation that would make it illegal to breed, house or import exotic animals for life in a cage — said the escape of the tiger has made her lobby public.
“Everybody thinks I’m just jumping on the bandwagon against them, but this has been going on for some time,” said the woman who lives close to Primate Estates on Cowichan Lake Road, about seven kilometres east of Lake Cowichan.
“My concern is the health issue,” said Bath, who added she’s been quietly trying to get something done about the place for years.
The tiger got out of its cage about 1 a.m. Monday. It cruised through a neighbour’s yard before being spotted on the highway.
Bell was able to coax the tiger back into captivity before police were forced to take more drastic action.
Bell said Friday morning there’s not much she can do to stop a crazy person from letting the tiger out.
She denies reports a lot of her animals have run off the property, except for some monkeys that got out a few years ago. That happened, she said, because someone let them out.
“The problems have been with people breaking the cages,” she said.
But Bath said whether or not someone broke the cage to let the tiger out, the property doesn’t have adequate fencing and security to keep the public safe.
“They have a long history of her animals escaping: primates, dog, ponies and horses — and now a tiger getting loose,” she said. “Can she guarantee her exotic animals would not spread disease to humans and wildlife? What about the welfare of all those animals?”
Area director Joe Allan said he’s not sure what will be done about the animals on Bell’s property.
“I don’t know anything should be done,” he said. “I don’t do knee-jerk reactions and I haven’t had a chance to look at the facts.”
That didn’t stop Bath from starting a petition that’s already obtained a good number of names.
“I took it to my son’s T-ball game (Wednesday) night and 20 people signed it,” she said.
Once she gets enough names, Bath said she will be forwarding the petition to Barry Penner, the minister of environment, and Minister of Agriculture Pat Bell.
Jamie Bell said she’s received a lot of support from people, most notably in the way of donations to help her improve surveillance and security at Primate Estates. She said security has been substantially improved since the tiger got out.
“We have some volunteers who are going to help patrol the property,” she said. “We’re really thrilled with the support, but of course I don’t know how long the volunteers will be able to help.”
Primate Estates also houses 52 primates, mostly monkeys, as well as nine exotic cats and other animals. She is able to feed the animals from donations from Cowichan Valley grocery stores.
“We’ve got some of the most endangered species in the world here,” said Bell. “I think it’s important to protect these animals.”
On May 11, a three-year-old Bengal tiger killed a woman in 100 Mile House, at an exotic animal farm owned by her fiance.
It’s believed the tiger began clawing at her dress as she stood outside its cage and then grabbed her legs.
That tiger was put down last week.
— file from Mike D’Amour