Sisters Irena Hauser and Sophia Kryszek of Ventura County, just west of Malibu, California, want to house five Bengal tigers that will be used for filming in the entertainment industry. Residents of the neighbouring area oppose the plan, saying it is far too dangerous for local citizens.
The 19-acre parcel of land, where they want to house the tigers, is on Pacific View Road, an incorporated area of Ventura County nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains. At a packed hearing on the proposal before the Ventura County Planning Commission, the sisters had dozens of supporters including Annie Ellis, a stuntwoman who has worked with tigers that have been raised by the sisters since they were cubs.
“If they were to get out for some reason, which they never would, they would be scared,” stuntwoman Ellis said, “They wouldn’t run through Ventura County, through all the housing developments, looking for somebody’s little kid.”
Residents who live in a large residential area close to the proposed facility, were very concerned about the dangers of housing tigers so close to their homes. They were joined by actress Tippi Hedren, who runs a big cat rescue sanctuary in Acton, California.
“This is a life and death issue,” she stated in an opinion piece, published in the Malibu Times. “There’s no such thing as a tame lion or tiger.” She described how her daughter and herself were both injured, and their first assistant director almost killed by tiger and lion actors, which at the time where under her care and supervision.
“We learned the hard way that we must respect the natural instincts of exotic animals and that they are not pets or actors,” said Hendren. “I understand the property owners are claiming their tigers are ‘tame.’ That is a falsehood. There’s no such thing as a tame lion or tiger. Their instinctual dictates can never be removed. Their job in the wild is to take out any being who is old, sick or lame. The animal becomes their meal. These instincts will target the human species.”
At last Thursday’s hearing, commissioners were weighing whether to issue a twenty year permit that would allow the five tigers to live at the Pacific View Road home. According to a Planning Commission staff report, the proposal for keeping the tigers included an “8-foot fence around 7 acres of the property, as well as a nearly 15-foot fence around a small training area for the tigers.”
An online petition opposing the permit had garnered nearly 1,200 signatures by midday Thursday.
“Wild tigers are a threat to our safety and serenity,” the petition site stated. “Captive tigers often escape during transport, cleaning or feeding, or during natural disasters. When they do escape, tigers follow their natural instincts, maiming and killing.”
County staff finally recommended that the permit be denied, stating in part that the “keeping of wild animals is more appropriate in a remote rural area with less population density than the proposed project site.”
Although, the law may still agree that it is safe to house wild animals if the facilities are in a remote location, Hendren does not agree.
“During the past 41 years, we have rescued more than 230 big cats, all born in captivity to be sold as pets, to be in shows, or used for financial gain. All have tragic background stories. They all are either living or have lived out their lives in peace at the Shambala Preserve. Since I founded The Roar Foundation, we’ve been educating adults and children about the dangers of owning wild animals,” says Hendren.