Archive for Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Attorney seeks guidance from county on exotic pets

August 29, 2001

Leavenworth County Attorney Frank Kohl will ask county commissioners to consider restrictions on exotic animals.

Kohl said his decision is based on two recent incidents on property near Tonganoxie, in which a woman was bitten by a lion and a man was bitten by a bear.

"We're going to approach the commissioners and discuss the possibility of a county resolution establishing restrictions, permits, the like," Kohl said Tuesday.

Currently, the county has no laws that govern exotic animals, such as the ones on property owned by Richard Provance II, who lives about six miles northwest of Tonganoxie.

Provance said he was working in Oskaloosa at noon Sunday when a former brother-in-law, Pete Cale, 32, Lawrence, went into Provance's back yard, where he reached into a cage to pet Yogi, a 4-year-old black bear. The bear bit Cale on the wrist.

"He admitted it was his fault," Provance said "He told the police and the ambulance staff that he shouldn't have stuck his arm in there."

Cale was taken by ambulance to the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan., where he was treated and released.

"I talked to his sister later on the phone at KU and he had full movement of his hand," Provance said.

Provance said he thought beer was consumed during Cale's visit to the farm.

"There were beer cans in the bear pen and beer cans all over the yard," he said.

Provance said that Cale, who had previously lived with him at his house for 1.5 years, should have known better than to pet Yogi.

In November 1999, Yogi bit a young girl who neared the cage to pick up a ball. Since then, Provance said, he has been especially cautious around the bear.

"I don't even pet him," Provance said. "He's real moody. One minute he's as good as gold and the next minute he's snapping at you."

Last week, Provance said he planned to find other homes for his exotic animals, after a 27-year-old woman was bitten by one of his lions.

But Provance, who bottle-fed the three African lions and two black bears in his home, has changed his mind.

He said they are like a part of his family. He said they're no different from other people's pets except his animals must be caged.

When he visits the lions, the large male lion is so tame that he will lick Provance on the face.

"I love having them," Provance said. "It would probably kill me if I had to get rid of them."

Provance and his friend, Shelly Topping, said since last week's publicity about one of his lions biting a 27-year-old woman, they have received numerous letters and calls of support. One woman even forwarded the address of a California woman who might be interested in keeping the tigers at a preserve in California. But for now, Provance plans to keep the animals at home.

Leavenworth County has no ordinance against exotic animals, although the owners must license them through the area game warden.

The county doesn't specify what type of cages the exotic animals must be kept in, Provance said.

The problem is, Provance said, that the cages keep the animals in, but they don't keep people out. So, he plans to immediately construct a perimeter fence that will have a locked gate to keep unwanted visitors out. Also, he plans to install fencing in front of his house and his parents' house next door, and driveway gates. These, in addition to the "No Trespassing" signs he already has, should help keep people out.

"The next time somebody comes up I'm going to prosecute," Provance said. "I'm not trying to be a jerk or be hateful about it, but I've got to protect myself and I'm going to protect my animals."

Don Navinsky, Leavenworth County Commission chairman, said the commission may have to enact some laws governing exotic animals. But the commissioner said responsibility also lies with the people who were bitten.

"You can't make laws to protect people from themselves, even though we as a society try," he said.

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