Tiger World FKA Charlotte Metro Zoo Violations

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Review: Some exhibits at Tiger World in violation

By Jessie Burchette

Salisbury Post

A county review of the planned Tiger World has found that newly constructed cages housing tigers can’t be part of the public display without a zoning change or approval of a conditional use permit.

And any new buildings or structures would trigger the need for a conditional or special use permit from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

Ed Muire, the county’s planning director, has provided county commissioners with a four-page report on Tiger World, which is scheduled to open soon at 4400 Cook Road, Rockwell, the site of the former Charlotte Metro Zoo.

Muire noted that the former Charlotte Metro Zoo had an operational area that covered four different tax parcels owned by Steve Macaluso.

Lea Juanakais, of Rock Hill, S.C., plans to operate Tiger World and told county planners that she had already purchased one parcel from Macaluso and intended to buy the remaining land from Macaluso on Feb. 1.

County staff couldn’t find any deed to verify her ownership of the parcel where she has erected a series of cages and a perimeter fence that contains two tigers, one lion and two tiger cubs.

“Staff is of the opinion that the area behind the log cabin never operated as part of the Charlotte Metro Zoo exhibit,” wrote Muire. “Staff informed Ms. Juanakais on Jan. 28 that this area may not be associated with Tiger World and she should forfeit her licensure as an exhibitor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture or remove the animals in this area.”

In the memo to commissioners, Muire said Juanakais countered by claiming that the area will be used for her personal pets.

Muire said that while the personal pet claim appears suspect, staff is concerned that the area will become part of the Tiger World exhibit over time, thus expanding the size of the facility’s operational area without obtaining the requisite conditional or special use permits.”

“The perception of having her personal pets in a caged area which structurally joins the fencing of Charlotte Metro Zoo/Tiger World in a public exhibition is difficult to draw a distinction between, but even more difficult to regulate based on the nonconforming and exotic animal standards of the county,” he wrote.

In an e-mail to Jaunakais, Planner Shane Stewart wrote that a physical barrier will be required between the personal pet area and Tiger World, and that the barrier must block the pet area from public view. Locked gates will also be required to keep the public out of the pet area.

In responding, Jaunakais noted in an e-mail that multiple people in Rowan County own tigers licensed with the Department of Agriculture. She contended that these people bring the public through for viewing and education.

In Muire’s opinion, the area that was Charlotte Metro Zoo can continue operating as a nonconforming use — it existed prior to the adoption of zoning in 1998. That provision specifies, “Any nonconforming situation legally existing at the time of adoption or amendment of this article my be continued so long as it remains otherwise lawful subject to conditions provided in this section.”

The findings in the review are:

* Tiger World may occupy the operational area (fenced perimeter) formerly used by the Charlotte Metro Zoo regardless of the number of animals kept. A determination as to whether the conditions of the facility are suitable will be based on Department of Agriculture judgement. The facility has not yet been licensed by the Department of Agriculture. (Department of Agriculture and Rowan County Animal Control approvals to date only apply to the cages in the “personal pet” area.)

* Physical or structural expansions beyond the operational area will require issuance of a conditional or special use permit. Staff is of the opinion that any new building activity within the operational use area that would require a building permit will also be subject to the conditional or special use permit review.

* The area behind the log cabin may remain as an area for Juanakais to maintain her personal pets and will be subject to inspection by Rowan County Animal Control.

* Staff will visit the site once ownership change has been verified and inventory the boundaries and physical structures on site.

Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or jburchette@salisburypost.com.



Carole’s letter to the reporter.

Dear Jessie,

Thank you for looking into the issues at Tiger World with the obvious skepticism you display about the motivations of all involved.  It is tragic that S.C. has such lax laws and as a result attracts the likes of Doc Antle (Myrtle Beach T.I.G.E.R.S.) and now Juanakais.  Having two facilities is how these breeders and dealers circumvent the laws.  In the case you are uncovering, there was a detail left out that you may know, but wasn’t presented:  USDA doesn’t regulate pets, even if they are lions and tigers.
If Juanakais can have any part of her parcel deemed at “pet area” then USDA cannot enforce their rules there.  That is where she can do the things that USDA would stop her from doing, such as using expired drugs, shooting animals rather than having them humanely euthanized, store and prepare food that is from road kill or other non USDA regulation quality, offer petting sessions with dangerous adult big cats and the number one reason is so that animals can appear and disappear.
This little magic act is a favorite of those who breed, use babies and then discard them when they become to large to use for photo opportunities, or showing off.   The “legitimate” USDA facility donates the unwanted animal to the pet owner, who is often the same person.  Once the tiger becomes a pet, then USDA can no longer inspect the animal or his paperwork and since SC does nothing to protect the wild animals, or the public, the animal quietly can disappear into the booming black market in the US for tiger bones, organs and skins.  This is how they end up in the back yards of people ill equipped to care for them as well and you read about the tragedy that often follows that reckless behavior.  
Having a USDA license is not the big deal most people outside of the animal industry think it is.  To get one you fill out a one page form that has name, address and phone and it costs 40.00.  There is no requirement that you have any idea how to cage a tiger, or know how to care for one.  The cage size requirement is only that the animal must be able to stand up and turn around. The number of inspectors is so disproportionate to the number of people with USDA permits that they only inspect every one or two years and are usually on site for an hour or so.  There is no way they can do their jobs effectively and because of the cost involved in prosecuting a case, and the fact that there is no place to send the animals in a confiscation, they rarely even report the abuses they see.  That is proven by the fact that the highest profile and worst cases of abuse have all occurred in USDA licensed facilities.  
I hope you will continue to follow this story.  Feel free to quote me and send my letter on to anyone you think may help put a stop to the re-opening of this hell hole.  Juanakais showed her true colors when she said she would be breeding tigers.  These privately owned tigers are not purebred, are not in the AZA zoo’s Species Survival Plans and will never be used for repopulating the wild.  The only reason people breed tigers, especially white tigers, is for the short term profit they can make in petting and photo sessions and then in the multi billion dollar wildlife black market, which is now second only in volume to the illegal drug market.  
Loads of facts, photos and video here:

The tiger made the top of an International poll for most beloved animal (beating out both the dog and cat), but those who love tigers don’t want to see them in cages.  The following poll shows that 76% of the public would support a ban on all exotic cats as pets:


Would you support a ban on exotic cats as pets?





















Public opinion isn’t the only reason why these back yard menageries (and that is all the Charlotte Metro Zoo or Tiger World ever was or will be)  should be outlawed:

The following is a partial listing (531) of incidents involving captive big cats in the US since 1990. These incidents have resulted in the killing or deaths of 84 big cats, 20 human deaths, more than 174 human maulings, 143 exotic cat escapes and 113 confiscations.   http://bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm

To see a video of the mauling of a zoo keeper in 2006 go to http://bigcatrescue.org/animal_contact.htm

The Journal of Internal Medicine in 2006 estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and as many as 78,000 have died. Read more about zoonotic diseases here:

To see the number of exotic cats abandoned each year go to http://bigcatrescue.org/animal_abuse.htm

To view a trend chart that shows the alarming escalation of big cat incidents here: http://bigcatrescue.org/Flash/BigCatBans/BigCatBanCharts.htm

The U.S. represents less than 5% of the entire global population, but 67% of ALL captive cat incidents occur in the U.S.  Likewise, Florida represents less than 6% of the U.S. population while 13% of all U.S. incidents occur in Florida.  California and Florida boast the most comprehensive sets of regulations allowing private ownership of exotic cats while ranking #3 and #1 respectively in the highest numbers of big cat killings, maulings and escapes. To view photos of fatal injuries from cases reported in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine click http://bigcatrescue.org/laws/AMJForensicFeline.pdf

This video shows facilities that are currently licensed and approved by the USDA and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission that have been operating at this level or worse for more than 10 years and yet are still open to the public.  Florida boasts that they have the best laws in the country, but as mentioned above, it is the second facility for Doc Antle.  Between FL and SC animals can disappear on paper at will as neither state takes note of where the animal goes after it crosses the border.  It leaves SC on paper for FL and no one here is ever looking for the animal to arrive.  These images are typical of those who allow cameras in but there are many worse ones who do not.   This shows precisely why we need to ban private possession of exotic cats.http://www.veoh.com/videos/v2570412PGPYhmr
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

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

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