Dennis Hill and The Tiger Next Door

If you saw The Tiger Next Door on Animal Planet, then you saw the horrid conditions at the facility owned by Dennis Hill in Flatrock, Indiana.  The Tiger Next Door didn't air until 3/25/2010 and it was about USDA taking away Hill's permit and the DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) seizing all but three tigers in 2005.  What the show doesn't bring out is that the conditions you saw in the movie were far better than when DNR first inspected, although there were a few glimpses of tigers in mud up to their bellies, and it doesn't show that the awful, pre 2005 conditions were the status quo as far back as 1995 when I was there.
The tigers in the documentary, The Tiger Next Door, that ended up at Joe Taft's place in Indiana, named Tony and Patty where Shere Khan's parents.  When I visited in 1995 he had rows upon rows of dog run styled cages, a foot or more deep in rotting feces and mud, filthy water pans, flimsy cages, some had only a rope or belt to hold a door shut, no roofs on many of the cages and then there was the barn.  You didn't see much of it in the film, but it was dark, filthy and crammed as full of leopards, tigers, cougars and other exotic cats as could be fitted in tiny, barren cages.  
The version on Animal Planet also didn't show much of Dennis Hill's house and the obvious signs of hoarding.  It was so nasty I didn't want to touch anything in the house.  My skin crawled from fleas and mites.  I couldn't wait to get out of the house and back to our plane, but that is when I saw Shere Khan.
Shere Khan stole our hearts when we saw him on 3/12/95. Though he was bred to be a White Tiger, he was born “the wrong color.” His birth was a result of the incessant demand for White Tigers by a public that is fascinated by oddities. Though many people believe that the White Tiger is an “endangered” species that should be bred to be saved, this is a total lie. ¬†The White Tiger results from a color mutation that happens infrequently in the wild and usually is not passed along. White animals in a forest environment would not live long due to their inability to hide and sneak up on prey. ¬†When you hear the phrase “survival of the fittest,” remember that nature does not allow the genetically mutated White Tiger to survive in the wild nor should we in captivity.
Shere Khan did not have much of a chance for survival from the start.  Dennis Hill had pre-sold him as a white cub, but the purchaser kept putting off his delivery date. He finally cancelled the sale when Shere Khan was already four months old. The breeders were left with a quickly growing cub on their hands and no other facilities for him other than a small carrier. He was up to his belly in feces and decaying food in a pet taxi that seemed to just bust at the seams with tiger fur. 
He never got the vitamins and exercise he needed as a growing cub, so his back legs were badly underdeveloped. He was very sick for a long time and suffered major problems from calcium deficiency. X-rays showed that his baby canine teeth were rotting in their sockets from his malnourishment and they had to be excised because they had rotted through his face. His bones were mere paper shells and one wrong jump could easily break a leg. We supplemented him three times a day with calcium to encourage healthy bones and teeth. 
Shere Khan is a perfect example of why people should not be allowed to have such animals as pets.  Though he is now well over 700 pounds and the picture of health, it has been a long, expensive road getting him to this healthy state.  His 3-acre cat-a-tat provides him with plenty of room to run through the marsh and swim in the spring-fed lake.  He has been neutered so that there is no "accidental" breeding with his constant companion and playmate China Doll. He is well loved by all. 
Dennis Hill's facility was finally shut down by USDA  and the Indiana DNR in 2005, but the DNR allowed him to keep 3 tigers and now he has even more.  
https://bigcatrescue.org/cats/captive/tigerssherekhan.htm

Dennis Hill

3,977 of you responded in time to let the Indiana DNR and USDA know that you are opposed to allowing exotic animal breeders like Dennis Hill to breed exotic cats for lives in cages. The hearing has already been held, and the comment period was supposed to be for the next few days.  Due to the number of responses the comment period has been closed by the Indiana DNR as of the morning of January 17, 2006. 

Carole's note: On Jan. 17, 2006 at 2:10 PM Dennis Hill called my cell phone from an unlisted number and threatened to have some of his friends in Florida track me down and kill me.  I am not worried about that happening, but report it here just to give you some insight into the kind of person who is currently allowed to keep dangerous animals. 

USDA revoked his license and fined him 20,000.00 on 10/8/2004 in federal case number 04-0012 here:http://www.usda.gov/da/oaljdecisions/Hill.AWA.DO.agdec.pdf

See an interactive online map of exotic cat owners.  See people being stupid with big cats, endangering themselves and others HERE.  See the awful conditions that many captive cats endure HERE.

Here is what the DNR decided:

State ready to grant permits for 3 tigers

Farm that had more than 30 animals is down to 4 tigers and has been improved, official says

By Paul Bird January 21, 2006 paul.bird@indystar.com

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources plans to approve permits for a rural Flat Rock man to keep three white tigers.

DNR Director Kyle Hupfer said Friday that once Dennis Hill transfers one of four tigers to another location, he would be in compliance with an agreement that would allow the permits.

Hupfer said Hill worked very hard to make improvements at his farm and spent a lot of money updating fences and cages.

"Other than reducing the number of cats to three, he has complied with everything we've asked him to do," Hupfer said.

Hill's farm was raided Sept. 23, and several wild animals were seized from what was characterized by DNR officials as deplorable conditions.

That same day, Hill, 51, gained an injunction from Shelby Superior Court, blocking the seizure of 19 Bengal tigers, five white tigers, three spotted leopards, three black leopards, four black bears, a mountain lion and a ringtail lemur.

Hill and DNR officials reached an agreement to relocate all but seven of the animals by Oct. 31.

"I have four cats now because I have a tiger kitten," Hill said. "I'll have to move one of the adults within the next few days, and then I'll get my permits."

Hill acknowledged he had acquired too many animals.

"I am very respectful of the DNR and their respect, integrity and concern for the animals," Hill said Friday.

Hupfer said Hill has agreed to regular inspections and veterinary care for the three tigers.

The DNR also plans to address neighbors' concerns by assuring them that inspections at Hill's farm will be ongoing.

"He has met all the conditions necessary for the permits," Hupfer said. "We'll grant them once he's in total compliance."

Call Star reporter Paul Bird at (317) 444-2709.

Shere Khan's Story:

Carole's note:

lion vs. tigerI remember the day we rescued Shere Khan, his little baby teeth rotted through his face, his limp little legs that couldn't support him for any length of time and seeing all of the poor miserable cats we had to leave behind.  I cry as I think about those cats suffering for the last ten years and now there is no where for them to go.  Every week I read a similar story, but this one hurts worse because I saw the agony in their eyes and I couldn't do a thing for them then or now.

Saying no is the hardest part.

3/12/95 Don and I were flying a small plane of ours across country and Don had heard there was a man with leopards in the area so we landed, asked around, found the guy and drove out to his place.  I don't remember if we rented a car, or asked someone at the airport to drive us there.  It was a small, private airport.  Don just wanted to see the black leopards.  We had Simba and Nyla but no lions or tigers.  Don didn't want anything bigger than a leopard.

Dennis Hill lived in a shack (trailer, I think) and had a broken down barn behind the house. In the barn was row after row of cages about 5 feet wide and maybe ten feet deep, make out of old pieces of junk fencing wired together. The cats were standing in mud, feces and rotten food. It was dark and nasty. There were holes in the roof.  There was no way for the cats to get up out of the filth.

He showed us the biggest tiger I have ever seen and said his name was Tony. He took us inside and as he and Don talked cats I noticed a pet taxi rocking in the corner. He pulled out Shere Khan who immediately tried biting everyone in the room and said that he had been pre sold as a white tiger, but that when he didn't turn out white the buyer kept putting off taking him and Dennis didn't have anything but the carrier to keep him in.

As you can imagine, he was stir crazy and had rubbed his nose raw because all he could do in that little carrier was sway his head back and forth. He was pressed up against every side of the carrier. Dennis shook the poop and old rotting food out of the carrier, onto his living room floor and commented on how bad the cat, he called Scrappy, was. All Scrappy wanted to do was fight and bite and Dennis kept him focused on biting a blanket and a boot while he was showing us the cat. Scrappy could barely use his back legs, so all he could do was drag himself for the most part.

We told him we would give the cat a good home and he finally decided to give the cat to us. Scrappy was far beyond salable and had sores rotting through his face from his rotten teeth, holes in his underbelly from sitting in his own urine and a personality that no one was going to be able to train.

We had to rip the back seat out of our little plane and left it there. We never did go back for it.

The bad teeth (baby teeth) finally had to be extracted. The vet had to insert holes in Scrappy/Shere Khan's face from right below his eyes, down the inside of his jowls and out the bottom of each cheek. She put tubes in to keep the drains open and three or four times a day I had to take big syringes of some antibiotic fluid and inject those drain holes and force the liquid through until he finally began to heal. Even though it was obviously painful for him and he put up a terrible fuss verbally, he never once put his mouth on me. I thought surely he would come to hate me as the days of this dragged out, but he was so brave and always so kind. He could have stopped me at any time.

While the cats in those broken down cages, in that dark Indiana barn haunted me, there was nothing we could do. You can't buy a tiger or a leopard from across state lines and Dennis Hill had them for profit. He had no reason to want to give away his breeding stock and Shere Khan was just lucky enough NOT to be born white, or he would have found a terrible way to exploit him or probably would have kept him for breeding.

When I heard that USDA had revoked his license and the state was going to shut him down, I called him to ask about Shere Khan's parents. Both were already gone, but his half sister was still there. Dennis got irate that I had exposed the conditions we had seen and would not allow any of the cats to come here. He wanted them to go to a friend of his; probably so that he could get some of them back when this blew over. As expected he tried to keep some and wanted to have more.  I would expect that is so that he could continue to breed and sell.

Dennis Hill is not accredited by The Association of Sanctuaries and does not meet the sanctuary standards for an accredited animal refuge.

 

Animals & Stolen Equipment Found During Meth Lab Drug Raid

September 4, 2002

The Shelby Countyprosecutor's office on Tuesday charged a FlatRock man with three felony countsfollowing a drug raid Friday. Dennis Hill,47, of the 3000 block of West Willow Road, faces charges of dealing methamphetamine, manufacturing meth-amphetamine and maintaining a common nuisance. Friday's bust was part of anongoing investigation that involved numerous federal agencies ‚Äď and theShelbyville Animal Control office after exotic animals were found on Hill's property.¬† According to Brian Jennings, director of the Metropolitan Drug Task Force, officials encountered numerous animals, including Bengal tigers, white tigers, black panthers, wolves, bears and lemurs. Animal control officers are considering pressing charges.¬† According to Apsley, officers found methamphetamine lab equipment on Hill'sproperty. The dealing charge came from an Aug. 27 undercover purchase of methamphetamine, Apsley said. Officers also found stolen equipment, including a backhoe, construction generator, trailer and a tractor, Jennings said. -Indianapolis Star

Shere Khan's breeder is finally shut down (somewhat)

Indiana DNR finds tigers and other exotic animals living in 'horrific' conditions                                    Back to NEWS Back to TIGERS

September 23, 2005

Star report

Department of Natural Resources officers found more than 30 exotic animals today from a farm near Shelbyville, describing their living conditions as "horrific."

The officers found 11 adult and eight juvenile Bengal tigers, four adult and one juvenile White tiger, three spotted leopards, three black leopards, three adult and one juvenile black bear, one mountain lion, and one ring-tail lemur from an unlicensed facility near Shelbyville in central Indiana .

"The living conditions of the animals are horrific," said DNR Director Kyle Hupfer. "No reasonable person could stand by and watch these creatures suffering in not only filthy quarters, but unsafe ones."

The DNR learned of problems with Dennis Hill's Flat Rock facility after the U.S. Department of Agriculture revoked his license to breed and sell exotic animals. Hill violated state law by possessing the animals without the USDA permit, DNR officials said.

"We can't subject our fellow Hoosiers and their children to the threat of an escaped wild animal. Indiana law dictates that we seize these exotic animals because Mr. Hill lacks a proper license, the welfare of the animals is in jeopardy and human safety is at risk," Hupfer said.

The tigers were found living in a six-inch deep mixture of mud, feces and urine. The state agency said the cages were not secure. The roof of the mountain lion cage, for example, had a hole in it.

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050923/NEWS01/509230583

Richard Hahn was the only person to speak out in the press in defense of Dennis Hill.  His reputation explains why: More here on Richard Hahn.

Raided property looks to keep 3 big cats

Associated Press

FLAT ROCK – Some who live near a farm where wildlife officers last fall removed several Bengal tigers, spotted leopards and black bears want state officials to deny a request from the exotic animals' owner to keep three of them.

A public hearing Tuesday night on the wild animal permits Dennis Hill has sought to keep a mountain lion and two tigers on his Shelby County property also drew supporters who said they felt safe.

Hill said that since state Department of Natural Resources officers raided his farm about 40 miles south of Indianapolis in September he has spent $15,000 of his own and donated money to make improvements. That work included installing an 8-foot-tall chain-link fence around the animal pens and putting 18 inches of gravel inside each cage.

"We put 120 pairs of heavy-duty clamps on all five cages here," he said. "Totally reinforced them, to the hilt."

Despite Hill's work, more than 30 people signed a petition seeking the state hearing on whether to approve his permit request. Hill gave the hearing officer a petition that he said had at least 700 signatures from supporters.

Ron Hamilton, who has farmed the property next to Hill's for more than 20 years, has worried for years about the possibility of the tigers escaping and threatening his wife and two children.

"If one of these animals gets loose, does the guy asking for this permit have means of stopping this animal?" Hamilton said during the DNR hearing.

Hill agreed to give away most of his animals after the Sept. 23 DNR raid. Wildlife officials said Hill's 27 animals were living in squalor amid a 6-inch-deep mixture of mud, feces and urine.

Volunteers from Black Pine Animal Park in Albion traveled to the Flat Rock farm in October and adopted three Bengal tigers. The tigers – females Luna, 6, Darly, 2, and 5-year-old male Montrose – were on display in late November during an open house the non-profit held in their honor.

Donations from area businesses and residents have allowed the park to build an enclosed structure for the tigers as well as an outdoor pen.

Hill, who now has three tigers on his property, said he did not want to have more than 10 exotic animals at any given time.

"I hand-raised every tiger, every cat I had from 1 day old. I gave my life to them," he said. "I've lived and died and begged, borrowed and stole for them. It's my compassion; it's what I do.

DNR officials said a decision on Hill's permit request is expected this month.

Kara Hull of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

 

 

Jan. 5, 2006 Supporters back man who kept tigers

By Paul Bird

paul.bird@indystar.com

 

State officials heard numerous supporters for exotic-animal enthusiast Dennis Hill's application to keep three big cats at his 20-acre farm near Flat Rock.

The comments came during a Indiana Department of Natural Resources public hearing Tuesday at the Flat Rock Fire Station to determine if Hill's request should be approved.

DNR officials went to Hill's farm Sept. 23 to seize 19 Bengal tigers, five white tigers, three spotted leopards, three black leopards, four black bears, a mountain lion and a ringtail lemur.

Hill, who refers to his 20-year wild-animal venture as a labor of love, blocked the DNR from seizing his animals through a Shelby Superior Court 2 order. He reached an agreement with the DNR to remove all but seven by Oct. 31, then apply for permits to keep only three.

He also agreed to comply with state regulations governing the living conditions for wild animals.

DNR officials allege Hill lost his U.S. Department of Agriculture permit to breed and sell exotic animals.

People with an interest in the case have until Friday to submit opinions about Hill's new application to the DNR.

No decision is expected for two weeks.

In little more than an hour Tuesday night, 29 area residents and others paraded before a table to express their support and concerns to DNR officials.

While the hearing was public, the DNR's format prohibited the majority of the 67 registered visitors from being able to hear most people's comments. Speakers were instructed not to speak toward visitors.

DNR staff specialist Linnea Petercheff, who led the hearing, said the format allowed her and another DNR official to receive the public comments, not the audience, and prevented the meeting from becoming confrontational.

Petercheff said Hill's facility now is in compliance with state regulations. Hill said he spent $15,000 of his own money updating his animal compound.

Four times during the hearing, applause broke out supporting Hill.

Julie Lamb, an administrative law clerk in Franklin , believes Hill should be permitted to continue his passion and should receive the permits.

Hill and his animals have been displayed to multiple generations in schools and nursing homes. Several speakers said they had taken their grandchildren to the farm to see the "big cats."

One woman said Hill has a special relationship with his animals that goes beyond ownership.

Another woman said she gave Hill $7,000 to help update and bring his facility into compliance.

Al Bushby said he visited Hill's animals and felt safe and secure while helping with the renovation.

A woman, who is a property manager for 1,000 apartment residents, said she would feel very safe for her residents if they lived by Hill's property.

But others had concerns.

Ron Hamilton's farm adjoins Hill's property. Hamilton said his comments were not personal, but he urged DNR to keep track of Hill's activities. He said he expects the permits to be granted.

"You need some policing of what he does," Hamilton said. "If you do allow the permits, police it. It has been a fiasco."

Hamilton said he found a tiger carcass on his property last spring.

Hill contends the animal died of natural causes and he had buried it. He believes other animals dug it up.

Another Hill critic was Tom Winterrowd.

He raised issues about Hill's allegedly weak financial status, a criminal history that prohibits him from owning a firearm, and dangers presented by living along a floodplain. Floodwaters could cause the animals to go free.

Hill points to his safety record.

"Never a problem, not a scratch to anyone in 20 years," he said.

DNR Director Kyle Hupfer said in October he thought Hill had taken on too much responsibility with too many animals. He did not think there was any malice on Hill's part.

Hill, 51, has a long gray beard and long hair. He adopted his "mountain man" image as a teenager.

"I was requested by the USDA to testify as a professional witness for them in a case over in Ohio ," Hill said. "This woman had these tigers chained around the neck and allowed them to leap out at people walking by.

"I was totally against anything like that."

Call Star reporter Paul Bird at (317) 444-2709.

 

January 4, 2006

 

DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Glen Salmon, Director

402 W. Washington St. , Room W273

Indianapolis , IN 46204

(317) 232-4080

(317) 232-8150 – Fax

Dear Glen

I am writing to urge you to deny Dennis Hill's request to keep exotic cats. I had to rescue a cat from him 10 years ago and saw first hand the deplorable conditions that obviously have only gotten worse over time.

There is no reason for any private citizen to be buying, breeding or selling big cats for lives of deprivation and confinement. To claim to do so out of love only underscores the mental instability of the person making the claim.

Dennis Hill is no savior to the many exotic cats that are in need of shelter and would never be a candidate for approval by The Association of Sanctuaries as his facilities, care and ideals are not consistent with true sanctuaries.

I hope that Indiana takes this opportunity to re assess their captive wildlife laws. Anyone who can fill out a 7 question form and pay USDA 40.00 can call themselves a commercial enterprise and circumvent federal laws that prevent the sale of big cats across state lines as pets.

Because our federal government is incapable of swift and intelligent action, the burden shifts to the states to create laws that protect their citizens from people like Dennis Hill.

For the cats, Carole Baskin, Founder (813) 493-4564 cell phone and best way to reach me.

Posted on Thu, Jan. 05, 2006

Speak up for cats like Shere Khan and tell Indiana and USDA that you are opposed to allowing exotic animal breeders like Dennis Hill to breed exotic cats for lives in cages. The hearing has already been held, but the DNR said they will consider comments for a couple days longer before they decide what to do. Please respond now!

This page has the click to send letters already addressed.http://capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=8372086&type=ML

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
Carole.Baskin@BigCatRescue.org
http://www.BigCatRescue.org

Caring for cats – Ending the trade

Join more than 10,000 Big Cat Rescue fans http://www.facebook.com/pages/Big-Cat-Rescue-Tampa-FL/122174836956?ref=ts

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