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Sanctuary Euthanizes Lions, Tigers & Bears After Move Request Denied

AGATE, Colo. (CBS4) – There’s a sad story in Elbert County after a wildlife sanctuary euthanized all of its animals — a total of 11 animals — lions, tigers, and bears.

The Lion’s Gate Sanctuary in Agate said killing the animals was the only option after county commissioners denied its request to relocate.

Jim Hansen has lived near the sanctuary for many years. He was sad to hear that that the animals, which went there for safekeeping and care, were euthanized.

“It’s kind of disheartening,” he said. “At the same time I don’t know exactly what kind of problems they are facing down there.”

In a statement to CBS4, the sanctuary owners said ongoing flooding and damage prevented them from continuing their operations and caring for the animals at the present location. They wanted to move the sanctuary to another location, land also in Elbert County and owned by them.

Elbert County commissioners denied that request. Commissioner Danny Wilcox told CBS4’s Jennifer Brice by phone it was denied it because of numerous safety concerns with the proposed move, and the sanctuary would go from a remote area to a more densely populated place.

Dr. Joan Laub, a sanctuary owner, said she is devastated about the loss of the animals. She said they thought about relocating the animals. She added that the animals “would not have survived a move to a new facility” because they were all seniors, some with disabilities.

Laub added that they had a safety problem with a permanent solution for the animals. In an email she told Brice, “Multiple governing bodies signed off on the relocation. They based their decision on the law. The three county commissioners denied the permit based upon emotions and their self-serving agenda, i.e., votes.”

In a statement emailed Wednesday evening, the Elbert County Commissioners described themselves as shocked and saddened by the news: “The decision by the operators of Lion’s Gate to euthanize all their animals comes as a total surprise to the County for two reasons. Only two weeks earlier, the operators of the facility assured the County in a public forum that if the application was denied, they would continue to operate at their current location as they had for the previous 10 years. Additionally, the Keenesburg Wildlife Sanctuary publicly offered to care for the animals at their facility if Lion’s Gate was unable to do so.”

Wilcox said he did not know the outcome of this would result in the animals being euthanized. He said he specifically asked the owners what their plan would be if the approval was denied. He said he was told that the sanctuary owners would continue operate as-is based on the ages of the animals.

Additional Resources

Click here to read the full statement from Lion’s Gate Sanctuary and read the full statement from below from Elbert County commissioners on the matter:

Elbert County Commissioners were saddened to learn of the decision made by the owners of Lion’s Gate Sanctuary to euthanize their eleven animals.

After a lengthy public hearing on April 12th, the County denied the special use application to relocate several lions, tigers and bears to a substantially more populated and developed area. This decision was based on concerns that the proposed plan for relocation of these animals was not adequately resourced, nor were exigency plans clearly defined which would ensure the safety of the animals and the surrounding residents.

The decision by the operators of Lion’s Gate to euthanize all their animals comes as a total surprise to the County for two reasons. Only two weeks earlier, the operators of the facility assured the County in a public forum that if the application was denied, they would continue to operate at their current location as they had for the previous 10 years. Additionally, the Keenesburg Wildlife Sanctuary publicly offered to care for the animals at their facility if Lion’s Gate was unable to do so. Given these facts, the news that Lion’s Gate euthanized all 11 animals at the same time and so shortly after the decision to deny the move comes as a shock.

“The most important consideration in this land use issue was ensuring the safety of the many citizens residing in the vicinity of the proposed relocation site. We would have loved to have seen these animals be allowed to live out their lives at the Elbert County location that had been their home for more than a decade.” – Commissioner Chris Richardson.

Jennifer Brice is a reporter with CBS4 focusing on crime and courts. Follow her on Facebook or on Twitter @CBS4Jenn.

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(Photo Credit: Lion's Gate Sanctuary)

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(Photo Credit: Lion's Gate Sanctuary)

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(Photo Credit: Lion's Gate Sanctuary)

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