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Neighbors protest bid to house tigers

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POSTED September 15, 2013 5:05 p.m.

MALIBU (AP) — Neighbors are growling about a plan to bring tigers to a rural area near Malibu.

Two sisters are seeking Ventura County planning permission to build a fenced facility to house up to five tigers in unincorporated Deer Creek Canyon, west of the city.

So far, no decision has been made but an 81-page city staff report found that the project will not have a significant environmental impact.

Neighbors in the rural area, however, are worried that the big cats could get out and devour their livestock, pets — or them.

“When you look down from Google Earth and you see all this open space, you erroneously get the idea that this is just a bunch of hillbillies up here. And we’re not,” resident Lisa Siderman told the Los Angeles Times. “So when (our lifestyle) is threatened by some crazy idea — I know these people love their tigers, but this is just not the right place.”

Irena Hauser and her sister Sophia Kryszek now own two white Bengal tigers, ages 11 and 3, that have appeared in ads, television shows and even a video by rapper 50 Cent. The cats now lived at a licensed animal facility.

The sisters are seeking a conditional use permit to build a fenced-in area to house the tigers, which would have their own pool and play area.

The area, which has been horse and livestock country for many years, is zoned to allow the keeping of wild animals. Hauser said she looked for more than five years at hundreds of properties until she found the ideal location.

“As you see, there’s nothing around here,” she said. “You almost don’t realize that there’s anybody here.”

That is, until neighbors learned of the sisters’ request. In recent weeks they’ve brought in lawyers, organized a protest and even started a Facebook page called No Tigers in Malibu.

“We obviously never expected this kind of response,” Hauser said.

Critics point to the death of a woman earlier this year at a sanctuary in the Fresno area when a male lion attacker her. They also remember that a Siberian tiger escaped from an animal sanctuary in Moorpark in Ventura County in 2005. It prowled suburban neighborhoods for a month until it was tracked and killed.

“It’s a valid concern that you don’t want to be eaten by a tiger,” Ventura County Planning Manager Brian Baca told the Times. “But behind that thought is the presumption that the tigers are going to get away. And that’s really the issue that has to be demonstrated (by the permit applicants) — that these tigers will not get away.

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