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Goodhue sheriff stuck with 7 tigers

Cats were seized after woman was mauled

By Jeffrey Pieters

jpieters@postbulletin.com

RED WING -- Seven Siberian tigers in rural Goodhue County are in need of a new home after four of them attacked a woman last week.

A district court judge on Wednesday ordered the tigers, which belong to Grant Oly's Tiger Zone near Frontenac, to remain under the authority of the Goodhue Sheriff's Department, which seized the animals shortly after the attack.

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Sheriff Dean Albers said he plans to have the tigers moved as soon as a permanent home is found.

"It's going to take a little while," Albers said. "There's so darn many of these cats it's hard to place them.

"By mid-next week, they should be out of there," he said.

The judge's order follows an April 27 incident in which a 37-year-old woman was mauled while she cleaned a pen at Oly's property. The woman was airlifted Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester with injuries to her legs and neck.

The woman decided to receive rabies shots, sparing the tigers from being euthanized.

Judge Thomas Bibus' order specifies that the four tigers involved in the attack be quarantined for about 28 days, until after a vaccination regimen is complete.

Grant Oly is not allowed back onto the property until after the tigers are moved, the judge ordered.

Oly may be held responsible for reimbursing the public costs associated with the care and relocation of his tigers, Albers said. That bill will have run to about $16,000 by next Monday, he said.

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Meanwhile, Oly faces three misdemeanor charges associated with his possession of the tigers. The judge set a pretrial hearing for May 26.

Finding a new home for the tigers presents a special headache for authorities.

Tammy Quist, executive director of The Wildcat Sanctuary, a private, volunteer-run sanctuary in Cedar, Minn., that is assisting Goodhue authorities, said she has a lead on an accredited sanctuary that might take the animals, but declined to offer details on the location.

She said she is currently trying to place more than 15 exotic cats recovered from throughout Minnesota.

"It's getting more and more difficult," Quist said, "because sanctuaries are becoming full."

She receives about 30 calls a month from people seeking new homes for exotic cats they no longer want. Recently, she said, her firm took two Siberian tigers, a leopard and two cougars from a West Concord resident, who opted to keep his pet bear.

"These (exotic animals) are everywhere in Minnesota," Quist said.

There are an estimated 10,000 tigers kept as pets in the United States, and only about 4,000 still living in the wild, Quist said.

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The tigers on Oly's property appeared healthy and well-fed, Quist said, but she has not had access to records to give her more information about the animals, including their ages and health histories.

A veterinarian has not yet examined the animals, Quist said.

She said four tigers shared one bin, and that the bins did not have bedding for the animals.

Some of the facility's fences required reinforcement, and locks were added to cages and perimeter doors, Quist said.

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