Darrel Atkinson of Horseshoe Creek Arrested Again
TBO Staff Report
Published: February 2, 2008
The founder and operator of the controversial Horseshoe Creek Wildlife Sanctuary is in trouble again.
Darrel Atkinson, 51, of Davenport, was arrested Friday on fraud charges.
An undercover state wildlife officer, posing as someone who needed to work off community service hours, went to the sanctuary and asked Atkinson for work, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Atkinson offered to sign off on the officer’s community service hours in exchange for $400, without the undercover officer actually putting in the work hours, the FWC reported.
The officer was investigating a complaint related to an earlier arrest, the FWC reported.
Atkinson was arrested in September of 2006 on accusations of keeping a Bengal tiger in a cage that was too small and not strong enough to contain it. He pleaded no contest to 12 counts of maintaining wildlife in unsafe conditions and was fined $267.The FWC said Atkinson has violated his plea agreement by taking in additional animals and could face additional legal action.
Atkinson has had more than 39 wildlife citations since July of 1993.
“The sanctuary is open to the public, which makes the facility popular, but not necessarily safe,” said Capt. Andy Krause of FWC’s Investigations Section. “It is important that we make sure the animals are properly cared for, and they won’t become a threat to anyone.”
Approximately 40 tigers are kept at the sanctuary, in addition to many other large and lesser cats and other wildlife species.