Evicted Wash. cats move to facility with 2003 tiger attack

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The zoological park:

By Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times staff reporter


When the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office found out that a Napavine family with four Siberian tigers was being evicted, it helped find sanctuary for the four big cats in the Spokane area.

Samson and Delilah and Romeo and Juliet aren’t your garden-variety house cats.

So when Paul Mason, who lives in Napavine, Lewis County, decided he could no longer care for the Siberian tigers, he knew he couldn’t take them to the nearest animal shelter. Instead, he turned to Cat Tales Zoological Park, a Spokane-area exotic-animal rescue.

Though Lewis County is largely rural — with horses, emus and even a camel — tigers are far from the norm, said sheriff’s Deputy Chief Gene Seiber. When Seiber became aware of the fact that Mason, his daughter, granddaughter and their four tigers were being evicted from their Napavine home, he helped find the cats a home.

“This whole issue wasn’t the fact he had tigers, the issue is he didn’t pay his bills,” Seiber said. Cat Tales, a sanctuary for 43 other big cats, volunteered to take the Siberian tigers. “The family, they’re taking it pretty hard; it’s like losing your kids.”

Mike Wyche, Cat Tales curator, said these are the first Siberians for the sanctuary.

On Wednesday, Wyche and his staffers tranquilized the cats and tested them for disease before the drive to Spokane County. In addition to caring for the four cats, Cat Tales will also raise Juliet’s cub when it is born, Wyche said.

“They look and appear to be in good shape,” Wyche said of the tigers. “I have no doubt in my mind these people did care for their animals.”

Siberian tigers, which are native to northeastern China and Russia, are rare in the wild, Wyche said. Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle doesn’t have any Siberian tigers, but they do have three Sumatran tigers — a smaller subspecies of the Siberian, said Woodland Park Zoo animal curator Martin Ramirez.

To some, exotic animals can be tempting as pets, but it’s a bad idea, he said.

“One of the things we try to get across to people, even our visitors who come here, is that exotic pets aren’t the way to go,” said Ramirez. “We try to teach people a tiger is really cool to look at, but they don’t make good pets.”

Full-grown tigers live long lives and can be dangerous, Ramirez said. Wyche said he doesn’t know where Mason got the tigers. He said Samson and Delilah are parents to Romeo and Juliet. The cats range from 400 to 650 pounds.

Once at Cat Tales, the siblings will live together and the parents will live in a separate area, Wyche said. Cat Tales, a nonprofit zoo, is in the midst of remodeling its big-cat sanctuary and the tigers will soon have access to more play space and a waterfall.

The sanctuary made news in 2003 when a South Korean television personality was attacked by a white tiger, according to The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane. A Cat Tales attorney accused the woman of prodding the tiger. The woman was not seriously injured.

When Mason’s family moved to Napavine, Lewis County did not have a dangerous-animal ordinance that included tigers, Seiber said. This month, the county approved a new ordinance placing tighter restrictions on dangerous animals, including mandatory insurance policies, specific guidelines on enclosures and the right of the county to confiscate, Seiber said.

Because of foreclosure, Mason and his family will be evicted from their home today, Seiber said. The family had planned to keep Samson and Delilah, but when they realized their cages weren’t stable enough for transport, they asked Cat Tales to take the two older cats, Seiber said.

Seattle Times staff reporter Brian Alexander contributed to this report.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/ localnews/2003583289_tigers22m.html

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