Kenny Hetrick’s story started well over 40 years ago. Kenny has been a USDA Class C License holder since 1989. His is the classic case of someone collecting wild animals, because of the attention he gets for it, who does not appear to have the animals’ best interest at heart.
How do we know?
Because in 2012 when the state of Ohio decided to make it harder for people trade in wild animals, and asked for minimal reporting and safety measures from those who already possessed exotic pets, Kenny Hetrick thumbed his nose at the law. His actions just emboldened other bad actors to refuse to report their animals to the state. After 40 years of having minimal supervision, he and others with something to hide, thought they could out wait the government because before now so little had ever been done to force compliance.
He fought the law and the law won.
He continues to fight but it seems to be more about his pride than about what is good for the animals. Accredited sanctuaries have been willing from the very beginning to give permanent and loving homes to the animals if Kenny Hetrick would just stop trading in wild animals. Most obnoxious has been that he allows Stumphill Farms to dump last year’s Obie Tigers on him so that they don’t have to provide lifetime care after renting cubs out for Massillon football games.
These are just a few of the stories on the issue:
It’s all about Kenny…not the animals
From Save Tigerridge Exotics Facebook page:
“Meet The Stony Ridge Tiger Man!
Kenny Hetrick has had a passion for exotic animals since the age of 10. Kenny’s devotion for exotic animals began in Florida, as an active volunteer at the Tarpon Zoo …”
The drug and exotic animal smuggling at the Tarpon Zoo was legendary.
State Moves Cats to Sanctuaries Pending Court Decision
The Ohio Department of Agriculture has transferred the exotic animals removed from Tiger Ridge Exotics to three out-of-state wildlife sanctuaries, ODA stated in court filings Tuesday.
The 10 animals were sent last week to facilities in Arizona, South Dakota, and Florida while their owner Kenneth Hetrick and the state resolve a case in Wood County Common Pleas Court regarding their care, according to a notice filed in that court.
A liger and a cougar were transferred to Keepers of the Wild in Valentine, Ariz. Three tigers and a leopard went to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., and three tigers and a Kodiak bear went to Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in Spearfish, S.D.
Transfers began Aug. 27 and all animals have arrived at the respective facilities, said ODA spokesman Erica Hawkins. The state continues to have custody of the animals and is contracting with the sanctuaries for temporary care.
The animals had been in a state facility in Reynoldsburg, near Columbus. State agents seized the animals, along with a lion that has since died, on Jan. 28 from the Stony Ridge property because Mr. Hetrick had not obtained a permit to keep the animals as required by state law. The lion was killed in April because of health problems.
“The department has always been very clear that the Reynoldsburg facility was designed to provide high-quality but temporary care,” Ms. Hawkins said in a statement, adding that the animals are “acclimating very, very well to their new environments.”
…Mr. Hetrick filed an emergency motion in June calling for the animals to be returned to Tiger Ridge while the case continues because the state facility was not suited for long-term care. ODA officials agreed that the Reynoldsburg site was meant to be temporary but said the animals were in good health while they were there.
In an Aug. 14 order by Judge Reeve Kelsey, the court ruled against Mr. Hetrick’s emergency motion, finding “the inadequacies of the ODA holding facility do not rise to the level of requiring the immediate return of the animals to Tiger Ridge.”
Mr. Hetrick has four appeals pending regarding the seizure and transfer of his animals, one in Franklin County and three in Wood County.
State action against Tiger Ridge is upheld
REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — A hearing officer for the first of three administrative hearings in the ongoing case of Tiger Ridge Exotics has made a recommendation in favor of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Andrew Cooke, a private attorney contracted by the department as an impartial hearing examiner, said the Jan. 27 transfer order requiring 11 large exotic animals owned by Kenny Hetrick of Stony Ridge be placed in state custody was proper and should be maintained.
State agents seized a lion, six tigers, a black leopard, a liger, a cougar, and a Kodiak bear Jan. 28 because Mr. Hetrick had not obtained a permit to keep the animals as required by state law. The animals are being held at a temporary holding facility in Reynoldsburg.
Mr. Cooke’s recommendation dated Tuesday said Mr. Hetrick’s possession of wild animals without a state permit violated the law, “and his care and housing of the animals was potentially dangerous to him, the public, and the animals.”
The report cites a Nov. 7 departmental inspection of Mr. Hetrick’s property off Fremont Pike showing a number of deficiencies, including improper fencing, dirty water bowls, and open padlocks used to secure chains around enclosure gates.
Mr. Hetrick has made significant improvements since January with the help of donors and volunteers, including added fencing and new water bowls and shelters.
“I’ve got more than enough done,” he said. “Everything they said, plus. Everything we have, we made new again. All we have to do is get the animals back.”
Mr. Cooke said those improvements were made after the order was issued and therefore have no bearing on whether the order was proper.
Erica Hawkins, spokesman for the department of agriculture, said Mr. Hetrick will have 10 days to file any objections to the hearing examiner’s recommendation.
“Then the report, recommendation, and any filed objections will be submitted to the [department] director to make a final determination,” she said. “Once that determination has been made, a final order will be issued.”
Such an order can then be appealed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
Mr. Hetrick said he has always anticipated having to have to take the matter to court.
“They’ll never be agreeable with us,” he said. “They’re trying to break me, to drag this out until there’s no money left. We’re not going to give up.”
The elderly lion, Leo, was killed April 13 for health reasons. Mrs. Hawkins said all of the remaining animals are in good health and doing well.
Mr. Hetrick’s veterinarian, Dr. Richard Carstensen of East Suburban Animal Clinic, visited the Reynoldsburg facility April 20. In a handwritten statement Dr. Carstensen provided the department and obtained by The Blade, the veterinarian notes the holding facility is appropriate for housing Mr. Hetrick’s animals and provides adequate space for them.
“I was impressed by the airy feeling in the building,” Dr. Carstensen wrote. “There were no odors present. All the animals seem content and appear to be in good body condition.”
The second administrative hearing on the state’s proposed denial of Mr. Hetrick’s application for a rescue-facility permit is slated to continue Monday for a fourth day. The third hearing on the proposed denial of a second application for a wildlife-shelter permit is scheduled for the end of the month.
Contact Alexandra Mester: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.
BY ALEXANDRA MESTER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2015/05/09/State-action-against-Tiger-Ridge-is-upheld.html
In total, six tigers, a bear, a lion, a cougar, a black leopard and a liger (part lion, part tiger) were taken from Kenny Hetrick’s Stony Ridge farm
State officials found he didn’t have the right permit and cages were ‘unsafe’
An exotic animal owner from Ohio is campaigning for his bear and big cats to be returned after they were seized by the state in January.
In total, six tigers, a bear, a lion, a cougar, a black leopard and a liger (part lion, part tiger) were taken from Kenny Hetrick’s Stony Ridge farm after it was found he did not have the correct permit and cages were ‘unsafe’.
Authorities have also started cracking down on the owners of wild creatures following an incident in 2011 where a man in eastern Ohio released 56 exotic animals – including lions and tigers – then killed himself.
Apparently Hetrick has been heartbroken by the clampdown on his farm and the 72-year-old widower is now fighting to overturn the seizure, backed by neighbors who insist his menagerie doesn’t pose a threat.
However, the 2011 incident mentioned earlier pushed Ohio to tighten regulations on ‘private zoos’.
Owners are now required to have sturdy cages, background checks and insurance before receiving an annual permit.
Since the beginning of last year, Ohio has issued permits to 54 exotic animal enthusiasts.
The agriculture department says that it tried, but that he never responded to letters sent over a span of two years with the permit application materials until last October, nine months after the deadline, when it gave him ten days to surrender his animals.
State officials in January rejected his application for a permit, which includes a $1,000 fee, saying it submitted was too late.
They also said state inspectors who visited the sanctuary outside Toledo last November discovered the tigers could stand on their housing and get dangerously near the top of their cages.
The inspection noted there were unsecured padlocks and chains and not enough fencing around an enclosure holding a tiger and black leopard.
‘If motivated, it would be very easy for either of those two animals to escape,’ said Melissa Simmerman, assistant state veterinarian.
Hetrick, whose pickup truck has ‘Tiger Man’ painted on the side, disputes those assertions.
‘Nothing’s ever got loose. Not in almost 40 years,’ he said. ‘Nobody’s ever been bit. Nobody’s been hurt.’
The Ohio Department of Agriculture has a duty to protect the public’s safety, spokeswoman Erica Hawkins said.
‘Just because an animal’s never gotten out, doesn’t mean that an animal couldn’t get out,’ she said.
Hetrick is appealing the department’s rejection of his permit application and a hearing is scheduled for next week, but the fight will probably continue in court no matter what a state panel decides.
Until then, the ten animals – a lion named Leo that had been in failing health was euthanized by the state last week – will remain a two-hour drive away outside Columbus, in a high-security building operated by the state.
PETA RESPONSE TO THE SITUATION
‘Today, the Ohio Department of Agriculture did the right thing by seizing the wild animals at Tiger Ridge Exotics who have been held illegally and long neglected.
Now, it’s been reported that the animals will possibly have to endure the stress of being tranquilized again and moved back to the roadside zoo—a potentially life-threatening move.
This is a selfish stunt to prevent the animals from being sent to a sanctuary where they would finally receive the care that they so desperately need.
PETA is calling on the facility to do the right thing and allow these animals to enjoy a peaceful life at a reputable sanctuary where their needs would come first.’
Supporters of Hetrick believe the animals – only the wolf wasn’t seized because it doesn’t fall under the exotic animal law – have been mistreated and will not survive long outside their home. State officials insist they are fine.
Hetrick doesn’t have formal training with wild animals, but he has been around them about 60 years, since he was a ten-year-old volunteer cleaning cages at a zoo in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
His love for wild creatures grew when he moved to Ohio. He first brought home an ocelot, often called a dwarf leopard.
‘I tell people don’t start with a tiger if you don’t know what you’re doing,’ he said.
He and his wife, who died four years ago, spent much of the money he made as an auto worker and police officer on the animals. Even with donations, food alone for the tigers and others cost as much as $15,000 annually in recent years.
Their collection multiplied, often when others dropped off unwanted pets. His daughter, Corrina Hetrick, remembers going out to catch the school bus only to find an alligator swimming in a kiddie pool.
There also was the time a black panther showed up in the back of a pickup truck.
‘I didn’t have cats and dogs,’ she said. ‘I had bears and tigers.’
Even the circus camped at his two-acre property while traveling between shows. ‘We had elephants in the backyard and contortionists in the living room,’ she said.
STONY RIDGE – The ODA cited the Jan. 13 denial exotic animal permit and that a recent inspection of the five-acre facility revealed a failure “to comply with caging requirements needed for public safety and care standards intended to protect the animals” under the Ohio Revised Code.
“Leo was humanely euthanized Monday afternoon after experiencing complications from his chronic hip issues,” Erica Hawkins, Communications Director for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said in an email sent to the News Herald on Friday morning.
“Last week, department animal health staff began to observe signs of prolonged lateral recumbency, loss of appetite, increased rate of breathing and decreased ability to move,” Hawkins email said.
Dr. Tony Forshey, the State Veterinarian, and Assistant State Vet Dr. Melissa Simmerman consulted with Dr. Richard Carstensen, Leo’s long time vet and Dr. Randall Judge, Vice President of Animal Health for the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds, the email said.
“The lion was documented to be weak in the rear end and not walking correctly as far back as August 28, 2014, (a year ago) by an inspector of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” the email said. “All four vets recommended to humanely euthanize the lion given his condition, how long he had been declining, and that his ailment was irreversible.
According to Hawkins, the other 10 animals are still being cared for by the state in Reynoldsburg and are “still thriving and in good general health.”
Corrina believes Leo’s death adds fuel to the fire in their fight to get the other 10 animals back to Tiger Ridge.
The sanctuary broke the news to supporters through a Facebook post on Monday, viewed by more than 450,000 people from around the world, Hetrick said.
Since the animals were seized in January, more than 10,000 letters have been sent to Gov. John Kasich to return the animals to the Stony Ridge facility.
“I’ve written every day,” Hetrick said. “I’ve invited him to come to Tiger Ridge. I’ve gotten only one reply saying he would not meet with me, with no reasoning.”
Hetrick said she had also reached out to the ODA to inspect the facility again. She said they’ve spent more than $86,000 in upgrades and in attorney fees in the last two months.
“If they would just come out, they would see we’re compliant,” she said. “They won’t come out. They won’t send us pictures, they won’t let our attorney or our veterinarian inspect them.”
Hetrick said she had received condolences from supporters around the country for those at Tiger Ridge who are mourning Leo’s death. Many of them include photographs of lit candles with Leo’s picture.
“It hits a nerve with people,” she said. “People know you don’t treat God’s creatures like that.”
A memorial service for Leo was planned at Tiger Ridge for 6 p.m on Saturday.
This video was taken about 15 years ago. Tiger Ridge had 8 Tiger Cubs at the same time. Shown here playing with Roberta and Merissa Coffman. Several of these cats were purchased by a trainer for the movie “Gladiator.” They are tight lipped about the names of the cubs, so it makes one wonder if they have all died. 15 is not so very old for a tiger. Where are they now?
STONY RIDGE, Ohio — Among a host of exotic animals seized Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Agriculture were four tigers used as “Obie” mascots at Massillon Washington High School football games.
For now the former mascots are in legal limbo, sitting in holding facilities near Columbus after a Wood County judge ordered an injunction against the warrant used in the seizure, which the state has appealed.
When the legal wrangling ends, however, private non-profit organizations will be left on their own to cover the cost of transporting the animals across the nation, to accredited animal sanctuaries as far away as California. One tiger alone may cost a sanctuary over $200,000 over its lifetime.
The Massillon tigers were kept by Kenny Hetrick, the owner of Tiger Ridge Exotics, who has fought state authorities to keep his Toledo-area exotic animal farm open despite 2013 permit laws aimed at shutting down exotic animal breeders.
Hetrick applied for a permit but was denied. The Department of Agriculture cited Hetrick’s tardiness and dangerous metal cages in its letter of denial.
Non-profits left to care for seized exotics
More than 3,000 miles away, in Alpine, California, Bobbi Brink is waiting to see if she will be making a drive to Ohio to pick up Hetrick’s animals and move them to her accredited sanctuary, called Lions, Tigers and Bears.
If and when the Department of Agriculture overcomes Wednesday’s court injunction, the state plans to release Hetrick’s animals to out-of-state sanctuaries. The transportation will extend into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Brink’s sanctuary builds habitats without any assistance from the state of Ohio or Hetrick, and her sanctuary will be on the hook to pay about $10,000 per year to keep the animals alive, in addition to covering the cost of operating the sanctuary.
“It is really a lot to take care of these animals, people don’t realize just how much these animals cost,” Brink said.
Lions, Tigers and Bears has already assisted in transporting more than 60 exotic animals from Ohio, mostly from owners who were keeping them in their back yards.
The animals there are not bred, per the rules of internationally-accredited sanctuaries, and live in large zoo-like habitats, Brink said.
Ohio a ‘breeding ground’ for exotic animals
Ohio is ground zero for Brink and others who run animal sanctuaries. That is because, until recently, Ohio had the least restrictive exotic animal trade in the country, Brink said.
“Ohio was like a breeding ground for these animals,” Brink said. “The animals aren’t properly cared for, like the public believes they are, they are just not.”
Animals including lions and tigers could be bred by private owners, kept in cages, traded and sold. After a mentally ill man released over 60 wild animals into the streets of Zanesville in 2011, the state passed laws banning such sales and requiring strict permits for facilities that keep exotic animals.
Lawmakers granted Massillon Washington High School Booster Club a specific exemption from the law, however, and the booster club remains the only entity in the state that can accept exotic animals.
A new tiger cub is brought in each year to serve as the Obie mascot before being returned back into exotic animal farms, such as Tiger Ridge.
The issue of where those tiger cubs go after the football season has led activists and animal rights organizations to protest the Massillon tradition.
“This is just one example of the mess that these tigers end up in,” said Amanda Whelan, a California woman whose online petition asking Massillon Boosters to stop using live clubs has gathered over 78,000 signatures. “The state has no money to take care of these animals. It falls to the graces of caring people to come up with the means to take care of these tigers.”
The booster club has been unable to produce records showing where 44 years of former mascot tigers are, Whelan said. The Ohio Department of Agriculture said it has no way of telling where the four former “Obie” tigers it seized have been.
ODA Seized the Animals
Amanda Whelan starts and online petition that gets more than 150,000 people to ask the Ohio Department of Agriculture to seize Kenny Hetrick’s animals before he can make good on his threat to kill them.
The petition states: “After ignoring a new state law requiring him to upgrade his facilities and enclosures for his wild animal sanctuary, owner Kenny Hetrick threatened to euthanize all his animals: an endangered black leopard, six endangered tigers, two lions, a brown bear, a liger and a bobcat. Tiger Ridge Exotics has publicly documented USDA violations and was once an exotic animal breeding facility.
The state gave Hetrick until Oct 22 to turn over his animals, and media reports made it clear he would have rather killed his animals than turn them over to the State. Attempts by numerous accredited sanctuaries waiting to rehome the animals in far better facilities have been ignored by Mr. Hetrick. We do not know how much time he was given to comply.
Multiple times Hetrick has threatened to kill the animals which is not acceptable or to be taken lightly. Please tell the State of Ohio to follow the law, secure the facility and make sure no harm comes to these innocent animals before they can be rehomed into licensed, proper sanctuaries to live out the rest of their lives. Thank you.”
Owner asks state for time (2 years after the law passed)
STONY RIDGE, Ohio — A local exotic-animal rescuer has retained legal counsel and asked for more time to get in compliance with state regulations.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture sent a letter to Tiger Ridge Exotics off Fremont Pike in Stony Ridge last week with a 10-day ultimatum to either surrender the animals to the state or the animals will be seized and owner Kenny Hetrick will face charges in Perrysburg Municipal Court.
Mr. Hetrick has not obtained a permit as required by an exotic animal law enacted in 2012. He has six tigers and a black leopard, which are considered endangered animals; two lions, a Kodiak brown bear, a liger, a bobcat, and a wolf hybrid.
Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2014/10/14/Owner-asks-state-for-time.html
The Hetrick family irrationally states on Facebook, “look into the Zanesville incident. It’s not what you seen on tv. This man was murdered in cold blood his animals were murdered in cold blood to further the states agenda to ban exotic animals..period.” She goes on to ask for money and asks people to stand up for their rights and roar against the state of Ohio. The only people drinking that Koolaid are those who are pimping out animals or the Johns that pay to fondle them.
The Hetrick’s started a petition to try and raise money, saying, “…we just recieved (SIC) notice that we have 10 days as of Oct 8th to surrender the animals or be criminally charged.”
Hetricks post on Facebook, “the attorney that all the exotic animal owners retained got banned from practice in ohio for 60 days”
Hetricks post on Facebook, “we are trying to get money together to apply for the rescue permit. $1,000 is the cost. nonrefundable if get turned down, figure that one out. If anyone would like to donate please send check to Kenny Hetrick 5359 fremont pike Perrysburg oh 43551. we also have joined the OAAO in attaining an attorney to help fight these laws.”
Later they said they never filled out the application because they didn’t want to lose the $1,000 if convicted of perjury.
Kenny Hetrick’s daughter, Corrinne, starts a Facebook page called Save Tigerridge Exotics that is dedicated almost entirely to fund raising and opposing the recently passed ban.
Ohio passes a ban on the private possession of dangerous wild animals. Current owners are allowed to keep their exotic animals but would be required to obtain a state-issued permit by 2014. Exotic animal owners decide to band together and try to fight the new law, rather than register their animals.
Exotic animal owner faces down the feds
A Stony Ridge man is in trouble with the feds again— over his exotic animals.
USDA investigators grilled Kenny Hetrick for more than three hours Thursday afternoon, less than a year after telling him he’d have to improve his fencing. Hetrick spent $40,000 last fall and volunteers raced a six-week deadline to comply but built it four feet short of the necessary height.
Yes, that says 2006, because that’s how long it takes USDA to respond to complaints. In this case, it appears USDA never followed up.
The Animal Protection Institute filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture against Kenny Hetrick, owner of Tiger Ridge Exotics, 5359 Fremont Pike, saying Hetrick recklessly endangers visitors by exposing them to grizzly bears, lions and tigers.
Nicole Paquette, API spokeswoman, said two of her group’s inspectors recently visited Tiger Ridge Exotics and witnessed Hetrick open cage doors without providing a buffer between the animals and visitors.
“These animals present public safety and health threats,” Paquette said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”