Getting exotic cat count proves difficult for Texas county
County officials asking owners of exotic animals to step forward
By JIM GETZ / The Dallas Morning News
08:27 AM CDT on Thursday, April 19, 2007
Just how many owners of exotic cats and other beasts are there in Kaufman County?
But within a few days, Sheree Daniel, who has kept a lion in the southern part of the county for 17 years, popped up, saying she wanted in on the registration. At this week’s commissioners meeting, LeAnn Schuler, who has owned three tigers in the eastern part of the county for several years, also asked to be grandfathered in. And on Wednesday, Commissioner Jerry Rowden confirmed another owner: Mikki Hanks, who has five servals, African cats that weigh 30 to 40 pounds.
That’s a 60 percent increase in less than a month in the number of known owners.
Is that it? Or are there even more out there?
Mr. Rowden, who’s heading up the registration effort, wants to find out. Then he wants to put the issue behind the county for good.
“I’m in the process of two things – one, finding out if there are any other people here, and two, figuring out which [registration] system to use,” Mr. Rowden said. Mr. Rowden intends to put a proposal on the May 7 Commissioners Court agenda to reach out to possible owners. He hopes to persuade commissioners to give residents 90 additional days to register.
That would be any owner’s last chance.
“If you don’t come in and register them, you’re going to be in violation of the law,” he said.
The state Legislature in 2001 required counties to either ban the animals or register them with animal control officers or sheriff’s departments. Kaufman County is the only one in North Texas to opt for registration. But for various reasons, only Beth and Corey Junell, who own three servals, registered. They said that for them, the sheriff’s secretary made the process easy.
Ms. Hanks moved to Kaufman County in August from Arizona, where she had her servals.
“I’d been doing my homework,” she said. “I had every permit there I ever needed. And I’ve been working with the people here, I thought.”
Mr. Rowden confirmed that he and Ms. Hanks had spoken March 27 or 28 about registering her animals. Mr. Rowden said he would have brought up her name Monday if commissioners had moved to reaffirm a ban instead of considering grandfathering in the additional owners.
The registration issue resurfaced after a tiger on Marcus Cook’s property attacked a worker last summer and after another resident found evidence of “big cat” attack on his livestock.
But Mr. Cook, Doug Terranova and Gary Holliman, who among them have about 40 exotic cats, and James Hall, who owns several bears, have not registered. Mr. Rowden said that’s because he is evaluating registration forms.