County discusses wild animal policy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2003

In response to the confiscation of a tiger from an Albert Lea residence by the city, the county started discussing an ordinance for wild animals that may harm people or the environment.

The seizure was based on a city ordinance to requires a permit to have wild animals, including a tiger.

Though it has been considered for decades, the county still does not regulate the possession of such animals. While endangered animals are regulated by the federal government and state laws, animals bred in a pet farm like the current tiger case do not fall in the provisions.

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County Administrator Ron Gabrielsen said, “We are going to research what other counties are doing to deal with those animals.”

“The problem is how we define the exotic animals,” Environmental Services Director Randy Tuchtenhagen said. “We have to be careful to tell it’s O.K. to have one species and not O.K. for another.”

The presence of livestock puts the county in a different circumstance than the city, Tuchtenhagen explained.

According to him, there are farms breeding elks, buffalo and other wild animals. Unless the number of animals exceeds 10, having those animals is not subject to a feedlot ordinance. Simple possession of one or two wild animals as pets is basically legal.

“The county has responsibility to protect people from danger,” Tuchtenhagen said. But, he also pointed out the county needs to be careful to impose a restriction on private property to avoid any possible litigation.

William Diaz, the owner of tiger indicated to the city that he would move the two-month old Siberian tiger out of the city, and has been demanding that City Attorney Steven Schwab return his pet.

Schwab received a report from a veterinarian in Hennepin county Tuesday, where the tiger was sent for an examination. If Schwab found enough evidence that proves mistreatment of the cub tiger, Schwab would employ a state law that prohibits cruelty to animals.

Both the city ordinance and state law violation are misdemeanors, with a sentence of maximum 90 days in a jail and $1,000 fine. If the state law is used, Diaz’s attempt to retrieve the tiger will have a slim chance.