Lion, tiger sanctuary deemed too dangerous for 43 acres close to
By Joey Bunch
Denver Post Staff Writer
Lions and tigers won’t have a new home on the range in Elbert County
The Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously against a zoning
exception Wednesday that would have allowed psychologist Joan Laub
and Peter Winney to bring six big cats to their 43-acre ranch south
Commissioners said the cats wouldn’t fit in among the area’s nearby
homes and livestock.
“I could support this proposal, if it was further out east on 80
acres,” Commissioner John Metli said Thursday. “But not where they
want to put it.”
Neighbors have been fighting the proposal since 2002, when Laub
bought the ranch and announced her intentions for Lion’s Gate
Laub and Winney have a month to appeal the decision to district
court, but their attorney, David Foster of Denver, said Thursday that
they haven’t discussed their next move.
“I think Dr. Laub made her case,” he said. “I think she met the
criteria that’s required for a special use (zoning) permit.”
Commissioners, in a unanimous vote, chose otherwise.
“I think the large number of opponents had an impact,” Foster said.
Elbert County Sheriff Bill Frangis spoke against the proposal at
“The possibility of human error is my main concern,” Frangis said
Thursday. “We simply don’t have the expertise as first-responders to
deal with lions and tigers.”
If the couple could get zoning approval, they would also need permits
from the state Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Department of
Winney, an experienced lion and tiger handler, has had several run-
ins with the state Division of Wildlife, including a conviction on a
charge of smuggling two tigers into the state in 2001.
After exhausting his appeals, Winney lost his wildlife license for
one year, until November.
Winney was acquitted in a jury trial in 2003 when he was charged with
having an unlicensed tiger at a party in Parker.
In 2001, charges were dropped against Winney after an associate took
an unlicensed tiger to the county fair in Kiowa.
The Division of Wildlife has said past situations would not affect
any future application Winney might make.
Staff writer Joey Bunch can be reached at 303-820-1174 or