AR-News: (TX) Truckload of animals is homeless

Ronda Roaring rondaroaring at
Sat Apr 17 12:07:32 EDT 2004

 Truckload of animals is homeless 

James Garretson holds Savannah, a 70-pound, seven month-old lion at a truck stop in Anna, Texas on Friday. He keeps several other wild animals in a tractor-trailer as he looks for money to build a home for them. (LM Otero/The Associated Press) 
By Angela K. Brown 
The Associated Press 

    ANNA, Texas -- A man trying to build a home for a truckload of tigers and other wild animals abruptly drove away Friday from a truck stop where he had kept the creatures for four days. Animal-welfare officials told him he couldn't keep the animals parked there. 
    James Garretson, whose care for the animals is being investigated by federal officials, had been staying at the truck stop while trying to raise money for a permanent sanctuary in Florida. 
    He said he may take the tigers, a wolf, baby lion and bear to the home of a friend who has a permit to keep large animals in Texas. 
    Garretson left the truck stop about 30 miles north of Dallas after a confrontation with Dave Garcia of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Garcia, who handles animal enforcement issues for Collin County, said Garretson's permit to exhibit animals only allows him to keep them in the truck when traveling. 
    Garcia said he was checking with the county attorney and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to see whether Garretson was breaking laws or regulations. 
    Garretson said federal officials have given him until the end of the month to build a home for the animals. But he has run out of money and cannot build on his 25 acres in Florida until his state permit there is renewed. 
    To raise money to feed the animals -- which eat several hundred pounds of food a day -- Garretson charged truck stop onlookers $1 to feed marshmallows to the 13-month-old bear, Malyna, and $10 to have their pictures taken with the 7-month-old lion, Savannah. Garretson didn't let the animals out. 
    "I'd rather see them in pens where they can run around. But with what I've got to work with, I'm doing all right," he said. 
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    Garretson and his girlfriend kept animals north of Dallas a few years ago, but left after county officials voted to ban wild animals. They eventually bought land in Florida last fall, but their license there expired last month. Garretson needs $15,000 for permanent enclosures. 
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an "open investigation" into Garretson, said Darby Holladay, a spokesman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. 

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