Exotic cat owner west of Lake Worth seeks protections from development
By Andy Reid
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted July 7 2006
With suburbia closing in, Patricia Garvey worries how new neighbors will react to her dump trucks full of horse manure and the wild African cats she calls pets.
Garvey keeps more than 40 polo ponies as well as exotic cats such as cougars, ocelots and African servals on her five acres west of Lake Worth.
Pastures and other agricultural land surround Garvey’s secluded home, but change could be coming with developers proposing almost 900 homes on more than 400 acres south of Lake Worth Road and west of Florida’s Turnpike.
Garvey told the Palm Beach County Zoning Commission Thursday that she worries that construction crews and the gated communities that follow could leave her cut off from roads she needs to access her landlocked property.
If the county approves the development plans, Garvey told the commission she worries people who hear about her exotic pets won’t be shy about hopping a fence to get a look. And that could lead to worried parents trying to get her cats evicted. Or worse, they might use rifles to take matters into their own hands, Garvey said.
"I just don’t want to be in perpetual fights with the homeowners’ association," Garvey said.
Despite Garvey’s concerns, the Zoning Commission recommended approval for the development plans. The proposals go before the County Commission on Aug. 24.
The advisory board did call for guarantees that developers would allow Garvey and her horse trailers and dump trucks to keep using the roads she has used for years. She should also be guaranteed access to the new roads development bring, commissioners said.
The board called for developers to inform potential buyers about the truck traffic and the exotic animals, to try to avoid complaints from future residents.
The zoning commissioners backed away from adding a reference about "dangerous" animals on Garvey’s property in the notification to homebuyers. Zoning Commission Chairwoman Sherry Hyman said that language went too far and could have brought unwanted attention to Garvey.
Garvey did not even want to tell zoning commissioners what kind of "cats" she kept on the property, but board members insisted.
Garvey objected to issuing a notice to future homeowners. She said even the toned-down version would be like a "magnet" drawing curious onlookers.
"I am a bit upset about everyone knowing that [the cats] are there," Garvey told the Zoning Commission. "You are just setting them up to be shot," Garvey told the zoning commission.
Garvey said she keeps the wild cats as "personal pets" and does not run an animal sanctuary or put the cats on exhibition.
Representatives of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission inspect Garvey’s property annually and she follows state guidelines for caging, handling and other requirements, agency spokesman Willie Puz said.
Andy Reid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-228-5504.
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