2004-01-26 11:40:28 UTC
Surry County teen-ager seriously injured in tiger attack
By Sherry Wilson Youngquist
A 14-year-old Surry County girl was mauled by a tiger and seriously
injured less than two months after a tiger killed a10-year-old boy at
his uncle's ho me 40 miles away in Wilkes County. The teen-ager was
inside a pen taking photographs of a 200-pound tiger owned by her
father when the cat attacked her, authorities said. The girl, whose
name was not released because of medical-confidentiality laws, was
first tak en to Northern Hospital of Surry County by her father, then
transferred to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
Authorities would not release her condition or details about her
injuries, only saying that her condition was serious. Sheriff Connie
Watson did not re turn phone calls. The attack happened about 9:15
a.m. near the family's mobile home on Palmer Road in the Lowgap
community in northwestern Surry County, authorities said. "There were
four tigers. She was inside a pen with one of them," said John
Shelton, the director of emergency services in Surry County. "Three of
the tigers were shot by the owners, and one was shot by animal
The Surry County Sheriff's Office and animal control are investigating
and refused to name the family. A man who came to the door at the
residence decl ined to be interviewed. Deputies later were summoned to
the area when a man threatened a television crew with a shotgun. Buddy
Shackelford, who lives next door, said that the girl's father has been
dealing in exotic animals, including monkeys and a zebra, for some
time. One tiger had been on the property for about three years, and
the other three tigers had been there for about seven months.
"For myself, I wouldn't have them. You couldn't have given them to me.
But I didn't object to him having them," Shackelford said. "It
wouldn't harm the neighborhood in any way. He had them contained and
all that. They've never caused any trouble. They won't cause anyone
any trouble now." Shackelford said he heard the attack yesterday and
ran next door to see if he could help. Neighbors, he said, feel bad
for the family. "It was just a freak accident," he said.
In December, C.J. Eller, 10, was killed by a 400-pound tiger in the
Wilkes County community of Millers Creek as the boy shoveled snow near
the animal's cage. The tiger pulled him inside and mauled him to
death. The incident has prompted Wilkes County officials to consider
strictly regulating or banning tigers, lions, bears and other exotic
There is no statewide law about ownership of tigers or other animals
not native to the state, and county and local governments set the only
existing regulations. The majority of counties in Northwest North
Carolina do not have an ordinance about exotic animals. Federal law
regulates owners of exotic animals only if they breed, sell, exhibit
or transport the animals. Nationwide, 19 states prohibit owning big
cats and other dangerous exotic animals. An additional 18 states
require permits or have a partial ban.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 5,000 to 7,000
tigers are privately owned in the country. The number of tigers in the
wild worldwide is estimated at 5,000. After the fatal mauling in
Wilkes County, members of the Surry County Board of Commissioners
began pushing for an ordinance that would ban exotic animals. A
discussion had been scheduled for the board's next meeting Feb. 2, but
some county officials said after the incident yesterday that they
should have moved faster.
"I regret that we didn't adopt this ordinance sooner," said
Commissioner Jimmy Miller, the chairman of the board. "They're wild
animals, and nobody c an handle them. We can't handle them, and the
people who own them can't handle them. Then nobody should have them."
Two weeks ago, the Davidson County Board of Commissioners approved
reviving a moratorium on most exotic animals being brought into the
county. Forsyth County bans ownership of wild animals.
Sherry Wilson Youngquist can be reached in Mount Airyat (336) 789-
9338 or at ***@wsjournal.com