Commissioners to Inspect Tiger Haven

KINGSTON – Neighbors’ growls about late-night roars, foul smells and other concerns convinced Roane County Commissioners on Monday to approve resolutions to tighten oversight at Tiger Haven Inc., a 50-acre big-cat sanctuary off Harvey Road.

The nonprofit facility is home to about 280 felines, including tigers and lions, that are considered abused, abandoned or neglected. Although Tiger Haven officials say the facility is frequently inspected by state officials, commissioners want to visit the facility for a look themselves because of complaints from residents who live near the sanctuary, which is not open to the general public.

Commissioners decided:

n That they’ll request permission for commissioners to promptly tour the sanctuary.

n They’ll also contact local and state agencies and request written explanations of their respective oversight roles when it comes to the sanctuary. They will also inquire about issues of public safety and regulations governing noise and odor.

n They’ll ask the Legislature to adopt a law that big cats be tagged to track their whereabouts should they escape.

Regarding the latter resolution, Tiger Haven’s attorney, S. Douglas Drinnon, said the facility is not required to do so by law.

“We are not aware of any state that requires animals to be implanted with a chip or other such device described,” Drinnon wrote in an e-mail to the News Sentinel.

Since 1999, Tiger Haven has undergone more than 56 inspections for safety and soundness, Drinnon said. The last inspection was in October, he said. At no time were there any conditions noted that constituted a threat to public safety, Drinnon said. In addition to inspections by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, based upon complaints from neighbors, he said the haven has been inspected by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation-Division of Water Pollution Control and the Roane County building inspector among others.

Ben Ridings, who lives about three miles from Tiger Haven, praised commissioners for looking into resident complaints.

“I hope you go out there and inspect this place quickly,” said Ridings who spoke on behalf of about a dozen Tiger Haven neighbors who attended the meeting.

Ridings said that when garbage trucks empty the facility’s garbage containers each week, the odor is horrendous. Some residents say they’ve seen feces falling out of the garbage trucks as the trucks roll past their homes. Cheryl Pesterfield, who lives a few blocks from the sanctuary, said when it rains the feces runs off the streets onto her land and into her pond.

Commissioner Ron Berry said the head of Tiger Haven recently sent a letter to commissioners that confirmed that one of the two Dumpsters on the site is used for general garbage, including animal waste, but the contents are “always bagged.”

Natalie Neysa Alund may be reached at 865-342-6307.

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