Man fights to keep exotic pet
Jaime Malarkey, The Examiner
Jun 13, 2006 7:00 AM (1 hr 56 mins ago)
Baltimore County – A man fighting to keep the Siberian lynx he’s grown to love during the past year will take his case to Baltimore County’s highest appellate board today, where he will argue that the big cat is not the dangerous predator officials say it is.
Daniel Vitilio’s lynx, Puddy, has called his Kingsville ranch — also home to peacocks, miniature ponies, buffalo, goats, rare falcons and a potbellied pig among other exotic critters — home for the past 11 months.
Vitilio, a master falconer who has a federal license to exhibit the animals in his 15-acre backyard, said he thought he had the county’s permission to add the cat to his collection. He spent thousands of dollars to get the cat declawed and vaccinated and to build a secure cage.
“They said ‘yes’ four times,” Vitilio said. “I’m attached to it and it’s not going anywhere.”
But county officials said they’ve told Vitilio “no” twice already.
In September 2005, Animal Control Supervisor Charlotte Crenson-Murrow sent Vitilio a letter denying his request to keep the lynx on his ranch, which he opens to church groups and disabled students on a weekly basis. Crenson-Murrow said lynx can grow up to 90 pounds and kill prey three times their size.
There are also no proven rabies vaccines for wild cats, she said, and there is an increasing concern about the role exotic animals play in the transmission of diseases such as SARS.
“Even if the lynx is neutered and declawed and even if you reinforce your cage in order to restrain the lynx when he is full-grown, this cat remains a serious threat to you, the animal’s caretaker, and the public,” she told Vitilio.
Vitilio, she said, obtained the cub from a pet shop without a permit, and once harbored an African serval cat before without applying for a permit.
After the county’s Animal Hearing Board upheld Crenson-Murrow’s decision in January, she told Vitilio the cat must stay outside Baltimore County during the appeals process, a demand Vitilio has chosen to ignore.
He said if he is unsuccessful in his appeal today, he will take the case to Circuit Court. He worries he will have to put Puddy down if the county refuses to bend.
“They’re torturing me,” he said. “Our record speaks for itself. I’ve been doing this for 21 years and there has never been a problem.”
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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