Two tigers killed at exotic-animal confinement

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
A second tiger was killed by Marion County Sheriff Officer Sgt. Jeff Soyez in the early morning hours Friday after a 1 a.m. call for help from its owner, Chris McDonald, at the place where he confines his animals at 40th and Timber.

Sheriff Lee Becker said the male tiger apparently became difficult to handle because its female mate was killed earlier in the week.

Recent developments with McDonald and his animals-which include tigers, lions, cougars, bobcats, leopards and a dog-wolf hybrid-began Thanksgiving week when officers raided the place on suspicion of methamphetamine drug production.

As a result of that raid, Becker said, John Mayden, also called the operation’s lion tamer, is in the Marion County Jail on a charge of attempted manufacturing of methamphetamine.

Becker said McDonald, who was released on his own recognizance pending further action, is charged with possession of anhydrous ammonia in an unapproved container, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of methamphetamine, improper disposal of animal carcasses, and improper disposal of hazardous and household wastes.

In addition, Becker said, McDonald may face further charges brought by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the licensing agency for his animal operation, and Marion County due to sanitation and alleged animal cruelty.

The public is asked to be on the lookout for the shepherd-wolf hybrid, which is believed to be tame, because it fled, Becker said, after being attacked by one of the tigers.

USDA and Kansas Wildlife and Parks, which has authority over the portion of animals native to Kansas, were called into the case after the raid when Soyez discovered the animals hadn’t been fed or watered for awhile, were malnourished, severely dehydrated and underweight.

Becker said there was also concern for the animals’ welfare because of their proximity to the poorly kept anhydrous, and “you can imagine there might be a concern for human welfare also,” he said.

Becker called in David Brazil, Marion County sanitarian and zoning director, because of the poor sanitation, including deteriorating carcasses of deer and cattle, which were used to feed the animals.

Soyez estimated that animals which should have weighed 300 to 400 pounds weighed around 200 pounds instead. They were panting and had hair falling out, he said.

The USDA called in Colorado veterinarians; their laboratory reports were not available as of Monday night.

Becker said there were originally 27 animals. USDA confiscated three and two have been shot and killed, which leaves 22 still at McDonald’s location. Becker said other animals, including a load of 33 tigers, had arrived but not been unloaded. Owners of those tigers apparently expected the animals would be wintered at McDonald’s location.

Becker is grateful for the response from experienced animal hunters and officers when the first tiger was killed Dec. 9.

He said apparently McDonald placed an unclear 911 call that was received in Harvey County, then transferred to Marion County, reporting a tiger loose.

Becker said such “tame” animals are dangerous because they are used to life in a cage.

“They are scared, so they will attack or kill whatever is in the way with little provocation,” he said.

Becker notified schools, school bus drivers and area residents of the danger. He brought along veteran hunters from Marion with heavier weapons, Rocky Hett and Scott O’Dell, to assist with a possible tiger hunt.

He was concerned that tall weeds around the McDonald property might provide cover for the tiger. Becker said there also is a lack of secondary fences to help contain animals.

“The threat was very real,” Becker said. “We called all the deputies in anticipation of digging in on a cold, rainy night under horrible logistics with a frightened animal moving very quickly. I was glad we had four-wheel-drive vehicles for response.”

Deputy Dan Rosine, a Peabody resident who was off-duty, and Peabody Police Officer Jim Philpott heeded the calls, and were the first officers at the scene at 3:48 p.m.

By that time, the officers said, McDonald had the animal contained in a “wolf pen” and was feeding it chickens. But he said the pen was inadequate to hold the tigress.

McDonald told the officers the tiger hadn’t left the property, but had attacked the wolf hybrid as well as two other dogs.

Rosine had his personal rifle with him, and allowed McDonald to kill the tiger with it.

Becker said he was concerned with animal handling procedures such as leading tigers with leashes through three-foot panel wall enclosures to trailers for warmth at night.

He continues to work with Brazil and County Attorney Susan Robson on the case as well as cooperating with USDA and KWP.

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