County case over cat refuge settled
By Brian D. Bridgeford
After more than a year of litigation, big cat advocate Jeff Kozlowski agreed to settle a dispute with Sauk County by paying $7,500 for violating the county ordinance governing exotic animals.
In an agreement filed Tuesday in Sauk County Circuit Court, Kozlowski and his non-profit group, the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue and Educational Center, agree to pay $1,250 per month beginning in May and continuing each month until the county is paid off. The refuge was located on Highway 136 east of Rock Springs when the dispute began, but has since moved into the village and out of county jurisdiction.
The settlement agreement avoids a trial scheduled for today in which attorneys for Kozlowski and Sauk County would have argued over how much he owed the county.
The judge ruled in May the refuge violated county ordinances.
Kozlowksi began his cat rescue activities with four lions and tigers at his home on Highway 12 near Prairie du Sac. He was trying to win a permit under Sauk County‘s large animal ordinance when he moved to the Rock Springs location in late 2005 and eventually ended up with 16 tigers, six lions and two leopards which have been abused or abandoned. The refuge is likely their last chance of survival because of the shortage of space in other refuges, Kozlowski says.
After the rapid expansion in the number of cats and the move to Rock Springs neighbors began complaining about noise, traffic and the possible safety risks.
Sauk County officials determined Kozlowski violated zoning ordinances with the location of his sanctuary and eventually filed a civil forfeiture action against him in Sauk County Court.