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N.J. Tigers Find Sanctuary in Texas

November 14, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO — Two dozen tigers rescued from squalid conditions in New Jersey arrived Thursday at their new Texas home -- a shady stand of oaks at a sanctuary in the hills outside San Antonio.

The nonprofit Wild Animal Orphanage took in the tigers after a four-year custody battle between the state of New Jersey and a private owner.

The tigers roared as their wheeled cages were unloaded from horse trailers that hauled them to Texas.

"Stop it, get back, get back," said sanctuary owner Carol Asvestas, as a growling tiger pressed close to a worker pushing a cage. "Watch your fingers."

Some of the cats were aggressive, others were fat and at least one was emaciated -- a sign that it was not strong enough to keep other tigers from taking its food, said Ian Robinson, a veterinarian with the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Asvestas said the animals would stay in quarantine up to three months while they received veterinary care and acclimated to the place.

The custody fight over the tigers began in 1999, when a 430-pound Bengal tiger was found roaming the New Jersey suburbs, terrifying residents before it was killed by sharpshooters.

State officials never proved the tiger belonged to Joan Byron-Marasek, but they criticized conditions at her facility and later denied renewal of her permit to keep tigers.

Byron-Marasek maintained that the dispute was really an effort to help real estate developers obtain her 12-acre property. Her legal appeals were exhausted in 2001, and a judge authorized the move to Texas.

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