Tiger owner spurns move offer
Highlands man determined to keep 150-kg Suzy
Thursday, September 11, 2008
A local businessman has offered to cover the costs of shipping Suzy the tiger from her controversial Highlands home to a sanctuary in Colorado, but the animal’s owner said he isn’t interested.
Ron Cheeke, a real-estate developer and owner of the Loghouse Pub on Millstream Road, said he is willing, for the sake of the tiger and the community, to pay the estimated $3,000 to ship the animal to the sanctuary.
“It the cat stays too long it’s going to be a harder move for it,” said Cheeke. “The animal belongs in a better place than the Highlands.”
But Dave Bennett, who has created an uproar by settling the two-year-old, 150-kilogram female tiger on his Millstream Road property, wants to keep the big cat.
Bennett said he spent yesterday morning talking with his lawyer on how to fight the municipality’s stated aim of pursuing a court injunction to compel him to move the animal.
He also questioned municipal politicians and others who claim they are acting on behalf of Suzy or concerned local citizens.
“I’ve opened my door to everyone and it was positive all the way through,” said Bennett.
Bennett has spent an estimated $15,000 constructing a chain-link enclosure to house Suzy. Upon hearing of Bennett’s plans, the municipality hurriedly passed a bylaw late last month banning residents from keeping certain exotic animals, including tigers.
Bennett originally volunteered to take the animal from its former owner, a woman near Lake Cowichan, after the only other offers for the cat came from people who planned on killing her for her pelt.
The previous owner said even zoos are unwilling to accept Suzy because of her mixed breeding. She was bred by people in the film industry in Vancouver, and is believed to be a Siberian/Bengal crossbreed.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo., specially set up to take in animals bred for entertainment purposes such as movies or circuses, has agreed to take Suzy. The facility houses large carnivores and now has about 160 bears, lions, tigers and other predators on its 100-hectare site.
However, Bennett and the cat’s previous owner have expressed suspicions about the facility’s level of care for its animals. Bennett maintains he can give Suzy better living conditions than she would experience at the sanctuary.