NY game farm cited for violations

By CHARLES FIEGL, cfiegl@poststar.com
Thursday, September 14, 2006 6:15 AM EDT

GREENWICH — A recent investigation by the state Department of Environmental Conservation found the Ashville Game Farm and Exotic Zoo had more animals than its permits allowed.

The Department of Environmental Conservation inspected the game farm and zoo last month after a white tiger owned by the zoo scratched a 4-year-old Milton boy at the Saratoga County Fair on July 18. The boy suffered a gash about an inch long and needed 14 stitches to close the wound.

The game farm’s owner, Jeffrey W. Ash, of Lick Springs Road, was charged with a misdemeanor and was cited for a violation after the incident, according to the DEC.

The department later launched its investigation and discovered the game farm was not in compliance with some of its permits to keep animals, according to information obtained by The Post-Star through the state’s Freedom of Information Law. Department officials ticketed Ash for 15 license or permit violations on Aug. 7 and 9.

Similar game farms exist in Washington County and have previously been cited for exotic animal permit violations. In New York, owners of large, wild mammals must obtain a license from the federal government in addition to state permits. The owner must be trained to monitor the animals or find a veterinarian for the job, and he or she must prove the animals are being kept for breeding, exhibition or research.

Owners must also agree to adhere to standards of the Animal Welfare Act and must allow periodic inspections of their facilities.

Municipalities may have their own regulations for keeping exotic animals as pets, but most rural areas do not.

Ash said the department’s investigation and the incident at the fair are not related. He also said some of the tickets issued by the department were “bogus.”

He said during a telephone interview that the department issued multiple tickets for one violation. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, Ash has two dangerous wildlife licenses allowing him to possess one African lion; a dangerous wildlife license to possess four American black bears and two bobcats; and an endangered or threatened species license to have 20 American alligators, seven tigers, two cotton-top tamarin, three leopards, two lynx, three mountain lions, two ringtail lemurs, one spotted hyena and one arctic wolf. The farm has several other animals that do not require permits.

The game farm had a tiger, a mountain lion and a leopard that were not covered by permits or licenses, according to the DEC. Ash also obtained a “replacement tiger” without a license amendment, the department said.

The matters have yet to be heard in court, Ash said.

“I can’t get into it without speaking to my lawyer,” Ash said.

After the fair incident, Environmental Conservation Police charged Ash with failing to exercise due care in safeguarding the public from attack by a wild animal that caused bodily harm, a misdemeanor under the state agriculture and markets law, according to a police report. The charge carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $500 fine. Ash was also ticketed for violating a condition of a DEC permit that states he must maintain the tiger in a cage that is not in contact with humans. The violation is punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a fine of $250.

Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy III said the misdemeanor charge is still in court.

On Nov. 16, a full-grown female tiger escaped from Ash’s game farm and zoo. It remained at large for more than three hours before it was found about a mile away from the zoo. It was captured without incident.

On Dec. 12, Ash pleaded guilty in Greenwich Town Court to failing to prevent an escape, a violation, and paid a $125 fine. Ash had also been cited for failing to report the escape of an animal, but that violation was dismissed in court.

In 2004, a bear cub from the game farm bit a person on the face while it was being shown at the AAA office in Queensbury, according to a DEC report. No charges were reported from that incident. In 2004, a bear cub from the game farm bit a person on the face while it was being shown at the AAA office in Queensbury, according to a DEC report. No charges were reported from that incident.

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