County still deciding what to do with big cats
By Brian D. Bridgeford
Sauk County officials want a judge to order big cat refuge owner Jeff Kozlowski to remove his 24 lions, tigers and leopards from their home on Highway 136 east of the village of Rock Springs. They are also interested in fining him for past violations.
Early Friday morning county attorney Todd Liebman held a telephone conference with Kozlowski’s lawyer in Sauk County Circuit Court Judge James Evenson’s chambers. He asked the judge to make a ruling against Kozlowski for violating the county’s zoning and large animal ordinances.
The only issues in the case are matters of law, not matters of the facts, so no trial or witness testimony is needed, he said.
Sauk County has raised six complaints against the refuge including the refuge is a threat to public welfare because the cages are not strong enough, violations of a county animal ordinance and the location does not obey zoning rules, according to court records.
In addition to moving the animals, Liebman asks the court to charge Kozlowski between $50 and $200 a day for the times he says Kozlowski has failed to obey orders to correct problems or shut the refuge down.
Kozlowski’s efforts to protect abandoned big cats came to public notice in December 2004, when he kept two tigers and two African lion cubs at his home near Prairie du Sac. Attempts to reach an accommodation between the county and Kozlowski broke down after he moved to rural Rock Springs and added about 20 animals he said were unwanted or abused by their previous owners. Several neighbors did not like so many wild animals in the area and said the refuge attracted excessive traffic.
During Friday’s hearing Kozlowski’s attorney, Jeff Scott Olson of Madison, told the judge that supporters have obtained funds to move the refuge to land in Rock Springs. They plan to buy the property and begin construction of a refuge soon so it would be governed by the village zoning ordinance.
"That would take it outside of the jurisdiction of this action," he said. "If all goes well, the cats are moving out (of the county’s) jurisdiction with all deliberate speed."
Liebman was skeptical about the move. "I think attorney Olson is speaking in very optimistic terms about this," he said.
The Rock Springs Village Board has voted to allow construction of the refuge on farmland at the south edge of the community owned by former village President Dorothy Coens. However, at the board’s February meeting their attorney told board members the village has to adopt new zoning rules to regulate the refuge.
Board members have agreed to work on the rules.
Evenson gave Liebman and Olson until April 19 to send him written arguments and counter-arguments about how the case should be handled. The judge would decide if a hearing is needed and make a ruling after that.
During the conference an attorney for Kozlowski’s landlords, David and Joy Carroll, said they have filed an eviction order against him. The Carrolls have agreed to settle the case with Sauk County and evicting the refuge was part of their agreement with county officials, according to court records.
Calls to the Carrolls for comment Friday afternoon were not returned.
Kozlowski has said he will fight the issue in court and suggested he could get help from an animal rights group. He did not return a call seeking comment Friday afternoon.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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