CJ the chimp has left Las Vegas for Oregon, and our exotic animal drama appears to be quelled for now. Nye County, however, is dealing with its own exotic animal questions.
On Wednesday night, the Nye County Planning Board denied a conditional use permit for a tiger sanctuary to a well-known Pahrump resident.
The owner of the animals, who has a history with the USDA, said he plans to fight the ruling.
Karl Mitchell, who owns eight tigers and a liger, was told he cannot keep those animals on the land where they're presently housed. Mitchell told FOX5 he's being unfairly treated.
Mitchell has owned exotic cats for years. He thought he'd found the perfect place for them - his friend's isolated 20-acre property on the outskirts of Pahrump.
All six members of the board voted against a conditional use permit for Mitchell's sanctuary.
"They're misinformed on what their real job is - it's a land use issue. The question is whether or not that's proper land for that endeavor… and it is," Mitchell said.
Several county residents spoke in favor of the sanctuary before the issue was put to a vote.
"Karl and Kayla Mitchell have provided constant and responsible care for these tigers," one meeting attendee said.
"I have no fear of anything. That place is very secure," said another attendee.
However, one attendee, who is the father of Planning Board member Jennifer McCall, said the sanctuary would damage property values.
Mitchell feels McCall shouldn't have voted because of her father's statements.
A member of PETA also spoke out against Mitchell, citing his previous problems with the USDA and animal abuse allegations.
In 2010, Mitchell was fined more than $50,000 by the USDA for not having sufficient space and barriers between the animals and spectators and for not allowing facilities records or animals to be examined by inspectors.
"None of those (allegations, fines) are relevant to what this is. This is a land use issue. I have a right to own the animals," Mitchell said.
Mitchell has 30 days to appeal the Planning Board's decision with the Board of County Commissioners. Mitchell said he'll fight the decision in court if commissioners deny him a use permit.
Nye County allows for exotic animals that were grandfathered in before restriction codes were put in place. Mitchell's animals arrived in Nye County after those codes took effect.
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