First-ever charge laid under exotic animal law

Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun: Friday, September 10, 2010

A photo taken during a B.C. SPCA investigation in 2006 into Siberian Magic, a tourist attraction in Bridge Lake, B.C. The SPCA had a number of an welfare concerns but were unable to find a new home for the tigers. One of the tigers mauled and killed Tania Dumstrey-Soos, girlfriend of owner/operator Kim Carlton.
Photo Credit: Handout, B.C. SPCA

A man whose girlfriend was attacked and killed in 2007 by a Bengal tiger he kept in his backyard is the first person to be convicted under new B.C. regulations restricting ownership of dangerous exotic animals.
Kim Carlton was fined $500 Wednesday after pleading guilty in Williams Lake Provincial Court to keeping two African lion cubs at his Bridge Lake home without a permit.
B.C.’s controlled alien species regulations came into effect last year after the death of his girlfriend, Tania Dumstrey-Soos.

Carlton’s conviction relates only to the possession of the lion cubs — not the tiger or Dumstrey-Soos’ death. The legislation can’t be applied retroactively to the tiger attack.
Carlton was charged with possession of a controlled alien species contrary to the B.C. Wildlife Act earlier this year, when the cubs were seized from his home and relocated to an undisclosed facility outside B.C.

A breach of the regulation carries a maximum fine of $250,000 and/or up to two years in jail.
“The fine could be much higher, but this is a step in the right direction,” Environment Minister Barry Penner said Thursday.

“I hope it reminds people that they need to have a permit issued by the ministry of environment if they are going to own these animals, so we know they can properly take care of them.”

The regulations prohibit individuals from possessing certain species “that pose the most serious threats to public safety” unless the animal was in B.C. before March 16, 2009.
The regulations also include restrictions on possessing, breeding, transporting and releasing animals in B.C.

Since the legislation came into effect last year, the ministry has received 73 permit applications — 43 of which have so far been approved and three denied — to possess animals on the controlled species list.

The list includes 415 species, ranging from the African buffalo to the bat-eared fox, the snow leopard and the nose-horned viper. Dozens of mammals, snakes and reptiles, three types of poison dart frog and three varieties of cassowary are listed.

Penner said he did not know whether any more charges are pending under the regulations.
Peter Fricker, of the Vancouver Humane Society, said he would have preferred a heavier penalty for Carlton but was happy the ministry is enforcing the new regulations.
“It could probably have been higher in our view, but just the fact there’s been a conviction sends a strong message out,” he said.

“What is astounding to us is that Mr. Carlton attempted to resume his activities with exotic animals, considering what happened to his girlfriend.”

Dumstrey-Soos was saying good night to three tigers that were part of an exotic zoo Carlton ran called Siberian Magic when one of them, an animal named Gangus, grabbed her leg.
She was reportedly killed by one swipe of the tiger’s paw. She was pronounced dead in hospital in 100 Mile House.

Carlton has since started a new business called Vanishing Kingdom, which offers “animals for film and live productions.”

Its website continues to promote the two lion cubs, while videos on the site show animals, including tigers, wrestling with humans.

The phone at Carlton’s home went unanswered when The Vancouver Sun tried to contact him Thursday.

“He didn’t seem to understand that he was going to be in violation of the new regulations, even though he was the one who [sparked] them,” Fricker said.

Carlton and his exotic animals have long been criticized by the humane society and the SPCA.

The single father of a boy and twin girls, Carlton pursued a career as a magician, after retiring from mixed martial arts, before turning to exotic animals.

ksinoski@vancouversun.com

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