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Judge Bars Exotic Pets for Moorpark Pair

A tiger found wandering earlier this year was said to be one of theirs. Authorities killed it.

November 04, 2005|From Associated Press

A Moorpark couple who authorities say owned a tiger that escaped into a populated area and had to be shot have been barred from visiting the exotic animals they own.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Johnson ordered Gert "Abby" Hedengran, 56, and his wife, Roena "Emma" Hedengran, 52, to sell the animals or place them in someone else's custody within 30 days, Assistant U.S. Atty. Joseph Johns said earlier this week. The Hedengrans were charged with obstruction of justice and other counts after the tiger was shot and killed near a Moorpark neighborhood earlier this year.

The judge revoked the couple's visitation rights with more than two dozen other cats after ruling that the couple had violated their bail agreement related to the February incident.

After the tiger was killed, they were required to move their cats to a facility in Nevada. As part of their bail agreement, they weren't allowed to have possession of the animals but could visit and help care for them.

Somehow, prosecutors said, the couple regained possession of the animals.

Johnson told the them they were not allowed to possess, visit or care for the animals and must allow federal animal welfare searches of their home.

The couple had moved from Temecula to the Moorpark area in late January, settling into a trailer home with nearly two dozen animals, including lions, tigers and lynxes. During the move, a lynx and a tiger escaped, state wildlife officials said.

State game wardens tranquilized and captured the lynx Jan. 31, according to an arrest affidavit. But wardens were unaware that a tiger had escaped until area residents reported seeing a large cat, and paw prints were seen in the area.

Wildlife officials found and shot the tiger Feb. 23 in a park near two schools and residences in Moorpark. The 350-pound animal had been declawed and apparently was raised in captivity, but authorities did not know this at the time.

The Hedengrans have denied owning the tiger. But investigators used photographs, "including one of Abby and the tiger," to confirm that the tiger had belonged to the couple, said Steve Martarano, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game.

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