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COLUMN: NIMBY neighbors contribute to animals' demise

By: Scott Weiser
May 11, 2017 Updated: May 19, 2017 at 7:54 am
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Lions and tigers and bears are dead, euthanized by the owners of Lions Gate Sanctuary after Elbert County commissioners denied fa permit to move the facility to a new location.

After the two denials, a heavy spring rainstorm with flooding threatened to both harm the animals and possibly allow them to escape, leaving facility director Dr. Joan Laub believing she had no choice but to euthanize all of the elderly and infirm animals immediately.

"Our animals could not be placed because they were too old and many had disabilities and special needs," Laub wrote in a Facebook post after being excoriated in the press worldwide, by stories that never inquired into the reasons why Laub felt it necessary to euthanize the animals.

The animals were born and bred in captivity, oftentimes illegally by people who believed that wanting to own a wild animal entitled them to obtain one, only to find that it is far more dangerous, costly and labor-intensive than they imagined. When that realization strikes these sort of thoughtless people, they do what arrogant narcissists typically do when a pet becomes a burden - they abandon the animal. That's where rescue organizations like Laub's get their animals. There are more than a dozen in Colorado alone.

Protecting captive-bred wild animals is a laudable objective. Laub and the other sanctuaries that harbor such animals do so under strict state and federal regulations and at great cost. But the need for such sanctuaries is necessitated by human cupidity and arrogance, lax laws and an unreasonable tolerance on the part of lawmakers when it comes to allowing anyone to own, much less breed large, dangerous and non-native predators like African lions and tigers.

Congress is in the process of considering federal laws making it illegal for private persons to own big cats, which might help to alleviate future tragic outcomes.

Due to ongoing problems with the threat of flooding at the existing location near Agate, Laub purchased some 80 acres on Judge Adams Road between Elizabeth and Elbert. She spent years trying to get permission to move to the remote rural area, only to be denied twice.

Six neighbors, who live on 35-acre-plus rural parcels, expressed irrational fears that led to the denials. None of the complainants live within a quarter-mile of the property.

The Denver Post quoted neighbor Curtis Ingalls saying "We are so excited that our neighborhood will remain the quiet family place without the threat of these animals in our backyards."

Quoted in a 2006 Denver Post article, another prospective neighbor said "I walk out here, day or night, with no fear. But if there are lions and tigers, no matter how small the possibility that they might be loose, then that peace of mind is gone." CBS News 4 in Denver quotes Elbert County Commissioner Chris Richardson as saying,

"The most important consideration in this land use issue was ensuring the safety of the many citizens residing in the vicinity of the proposed relocation site."

The animals were old, sick and even blind. Commissioners knew there had never been an escape or an injury. People in the area are at greater risk from getting kicked in the head by their own horses or getting bitten by a rattlesnake than of being harmed by the sanctuary's animals.

Worse, the agencies that examined plans for the new facility told commissioners they should approve the request, but the elected officials instead rolled over and capitulated to the not-in-my-backyard neighbors.

Because of their selfish obstructionism, based on unfounded fear and a complete lack of respect for Laub's property rights and her animals, they ushered in the deaths of three lions, three tigers and five bears.

These animals should never have been bred to satisfy the desires of humans with ill-conceived exotic pet hobbies. They should not have been rendered as subjects dependent on the wild-animal rescue circuit. The lions, tigers and bears asked for none of this. Once bred and rescued, they deserved society's compassion. They deserved more from those who fought and denied a relocation permit that would have saved their lives.

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Readers can contact Scott Weiser at scott.weiser@altnews.us.

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