Group offers to aid tiger’s move to U.S.

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Group offers to aid tiger’s move to U.S.

But Highlands man vows to keep cat in homemade cage

Bill Cleverley
Times Colonist

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A local animal conservation group has offered to co-ordinate fundraising efforts to relocate a young Bengal tiger, originally destined for the Highlands, to a Colorado wildlife sanctuary.

Organization Advocating Sanctuary for Endangered Species, a registered charity known as OASES, has agreed to help with efforts to move the tiger, a two-year-old female called Suzie.

The tiger is now living on a private sanctuary, Primate Estates near Lake Cowichan. The sanctuary’s owner, Jamie Bell, said she has to send the cat away for personal reasons.

But fur flew when Highlands resident Dave Bennett offered to take Suzie in and began building a $10,000 enclosure at his Millstream Road home for the big cat.

Complaints from neighbours saw Highlands council move with lightning speed, taking just a weekend to pass an exotic pets bylaw that prohibits animals such as tigers from being kept in the municipality.

But even as the bylaw was being passed, a determined Bennett said it would not stop him from giving the 160-kilogram cat a home.

He initially said the cat would arrive at his property Monday. Now, while putting the finishing touches on the enclosure, Bennett only will say he’ll bring the cat in by Sept. 1.

Worried that Suzie could be killed for her pelt if banned from Highlands, municipal staff tracked down an animal sanctuary in Colorado that offered to take Suzie in.

John Creviston, OASES vice-president and former curator of animals at Crystal Garden, says the cat would be far better off at the Colorado sanctuary than in a pen in someone’s yard — though he cautioned that relocating exotic animals across the U.S. border is complicated and time-consuming.

The big concern, he said, is the long-term welfare of the animal.

“What’s the purpose of having a tiger like this alone in somebody’s backyard and the public safety issues with that?” Creviston said.

“We just don’t think it’s a great idea to do that.”

For his part, Bennett says he believes Suzie would be better off in the enclosure he has built than in the Colorado ranch.

“It isn’t a 240-acre ranch for her to roam around in at all. It’s a 240-acre ranch full of cages. They have three tigers there and all three of them are in a cage that are smaller than what I’ve got here.”

Highlands planner Laura Beckett says if Bennett brings in the tiger in defiance of the bylaw the matter will be referred to bylaw enforcement.

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