Pet tiger faces eviction from Highlands, B.C., property

Avatar BCR | May 30, 2009 12 Views 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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Pet tiger faces eviction from Highlands, B.C., property

Last Updated: Thursday, May 28, 2009 5:41 PM PT

A man in a rural community northwest of Victoria has received an eviction notice for what he calls a member of his family — a 180-kilogram pet tiger adopted into the household last summer.

David Bennett has until June 15 to find Suzie a new home because of a District of Highlands municipal bylaw banning exotic and wild animals in a home.

Bennett adopted Suzie last August and moved her to a special enclosure on his property a month later.

Before the move, the city passed the bylaw as a result of a dozen complaints from people who had concerns the tiger could pose a threat to public safety. Highlands has about 2,000 residents.

“She wants you to scratch her belly, she wants you to scratch her head. You can see the affection she shows. There’s no aggression from her,” Bennett said Thursday of his three-year-old pet.

Suzie’s original owner obtained her as a cub and raised her until she could be sent to a zoo. But efforts to find her a new home were unsuccessful because she’s a Siberian-Bengal cross and doesn’t qualify for most zoo programs. She was then put in a wild-animal sanctuary in Lake Cowichan, on Vancouver Island, but the sanctuary closed down last summer.

Bennett said he volunteered to adopt the tiger because the other potential adopter wanted to kill Suzie and sell her skin and body parts.

“This is the only tiger this island will ever see. Your kids, grandkids, this is it,” Bennett said Thursday.

“If you ship her away and you’ve just got rid of an icon, there won’t be another one. She’s a treasure. She likes people; people like her.”

Bennett has received some community support to keep Suzie in his home. One of the supporters is Louise Blair, who drove from Saanich to Highlands on Thursday to see the animal and offer her voice.

“He’s done a beautiful job out here, you know, for securing the tiger,” Blair said of Bennett’s efforts.

“And it seems very safe. It can be more dangerous with dogs sometimes running around.”

Bennett is asking the hundreds of people who come to his enclosure weekly to visit Suzie to write to the mayor and council to stop the eviction.

So far, only one place, in Colorado, is willing to take Suzie, but it would put her in an isolated, cramped pen, Bennett said.

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