Shaq’s Former Owner Wants Tigers in His Backyard Again
In case you don't know who this guy is, he is the person who beat Shaq the leopard in the face until he crushed the skull. He was in prison on fraud for a while, but now is back on the loose with a back yard full of tigers.
RPC nixes tigers in residential area
By MARK WAITE
MARK WAITE / PVT
Karl Mitchell was denied a conditional use permit to keep seven Bengal tigers in an animal sanctuary at his Manse Road home by the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission Wednesday.
Many residents in a crowd of 90 people voiced concern over their safety in the neighborhood, while Mitchell supporters talked about the pleasant experience of meeting the big cats, which they said appear to be safely confined.
Mitchell has 30 days to request an appeal before the Nye County Commission.
"I am out at the ranch every single day. I work with the tigers. I have no scars, no sores, no marks from them. They are in cages that have roofs on them. They can't jump out of their cages at all," said Mitchell supporter Patty Christopher.
One visitor from England wept when she had the unique experience of having her picture taken with the tigers, Christopher said.
Eve Durnen said the tigers "were just like house cats," adding she wasn't the least bit afraid of them during a visit last Sunday.
But Gene Lovas, whose letter to the editor helped spur attendance, said he was totally blindsided to find out just before Thanksgiving someone in the neighborhood was allowed to have what Google called the most dangerous predatory animals on the planet.
Lovas said the chain-link fencing around the perimeter amounted to a privacy fence that was dilapidated in certain parts.
"It amazes me to be his neighbor. I didn't know they were on the property for eight months," Lovas said.
Doug Howard, president of the Escapees Co-op RV Park, presented two petitions with 87 signatures opposing the conditional use permit.
"We feel that we are in jeopardy should one of those cats escape, in as much as the proximity is only 250 feet from our fence. It won't take much for a cat to cover that much distance," Howard said.
Mitchell disputed the distance, claiming it was at least 400 feet.
For others, their opposition was rooted in Mitchell's checkered past as animal control officer and owner of Big Cat Encounters.
Layne Jones pointed to the revocation of Mitchell's license to exhibit animals by the U.S. Department of Agriculture back in 2001.
"I question whether a commercial enterprise is advisable in a residential area," Jones said. She added, "I am opposed to Mr. Mitchell having anything with a heart."
Mike Ravlin said, "This man shouldn't be allowed by the RPC to punch holes in doughnuts."
Ravlin accused Mitchell of lying, an accusation that drew a rebuttal from Mitchell.
But Terry Gray, who owns a ranch down the street, said he helped design the heavy gauge, chain-link fence along with other safety features.
Gray said he has lived in Pahrump for 19 years and knew Mitchell on various occasions.
"I can honestly say there has never been a time where there has been an attack or some cat escaped," he said.
Yvonne Smith, who has been a volunteer at the Nye County Animal Shelter for years, disagreed. She called animal control to inspect the property after she noticed the main gate was down.
"The man does not have a good safety record. He's had escapes. This is the wrong place to have this. The fence is not proper. Six feet is nothing for a tiger," Smith said.
Wayne Bradshaw said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has a fact sheet documenting big cat incidents in the U.S. from 1990 through 2008. He said Mitchell once shot and killed one of his tigers back in 2002 after it became frightened.
But Rich Canapary said he went out on several calls with Mitchell when he was an animal control officer and thought he was well versed at taking care of the animals.
"Having a sanctuary like this in Pahrump is going to attract tourists, and that's something we need to do," Canapary said.
Mitchell said he had a $1 million liability insurance policy on the property. But Carl Miller, who said he has four children and lives a stone's throw away, retorted: "I don't think any insurance policy in the world would cover our children being mauled or killed."
Robert Patzer, a resident of Escapees RV Park, said Mitchell wants to make a nice park for the animals, busing in visitors and bringing in film crews, but this may not be the right location.
Mitchell claimed the tigers were housed adequately to prevent an escape and sought to blame the opposition on hysteria. Mitchell said there is "triple redundancy" on security, if someone cuts one fence, the tigers still can't get out unless they cut two more fences.
When asked about the possibility of an escape, Mitchell said, "The fact the animals are never loose to jump the fence, and they're always under my control by leash or catch pole, the probability of that happening is almost zero. There never has been an escape of any wild animals in Pahrump."
Mitchell said, "Animal control has unofficially inspected our location at numerous times and finds it consistent with current requirements."
Terry Bivens, who said he works in the fencing business, had worked for famed performers Siegfried and Roy and for magician Rick Thomas, who all use tigers in their acts, said Mitchell has a compound with chain link fencing over the roof, with individual compartments and a roof for each cat.
But he said Siegfried and Roy had a roof 15 feet tall and still had a big cat escape once.
"I don't think it should be in that area," Bivens said. "These are wild animals. They are very beautiful, but they are wild animals."
RPC member Mark Kimball wanted to continue the discussion until a future meeting, pending a report from animal control. But RPC member Jacob Skinner persuaded Kimball to make a motion to deny the request.
Skinner said, "It doesn't matter how many safeguards he puts in place because I know the best safeguard of all is not to put it in that location. I don't think it belongs in this neighborhood."
While he's renting the property, Mitchell said investors plan to purchase the property and an adjacent five acres if a conditional use permit is granted. He said the animals would then be housed in three acres at the rear of the property in a 6,000-square-foot, indoor-outdoor building.
For the cats,
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