VENTURA (CBSLA.com) — An animal trainer’s request to keep several tigers on her property on the edge of Ventura and Los Angeles counties has neighbors howling.
Planning commissioners who are considering issuing a conditional use permit heard arguments Thursday for and against the plan to house five white Sibera tigers for commercial use for filming at a home at 11077 Pacific View Avenue in Malibu, which falls within Ventura County.
Dozens of residents and neighbors opposed to the plan wore hats and T-shirts condemning the idea to the meeting. The Bercu family kept their children home from school so they could be present at the meeting.
“We calculated it – a tiger would be at our house within 20 seconds, if it were to get out of the perimeter cage,” Dan Bercu said.
Irena Hauser and her sister, Sophia Kryszek, own the fenced facility where the tigers will be housed and they say at least one staff member will be on the property – along with a gun — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“These animals are not pets,” Hauser said. “And they are to be dealt with in a proper, safe manner.”
The proposed facility – which would be on a 19-acre property in the Coastal Open Space Zone and would include cages, an enclosed fenced exercise yard and an 8-foot perimeter fence – appears to be fine, animal activist and screen legend Tippi Hedren said. But it’s the plan to transport the tigers on and off the property – up to 60 times a year for movie shoots – that would put the community at risk.
“They don’t have a conscience gene. They don’t have a remorse gene. They have a killing gene,” Hedren said.
A planning commission staff report describes the transport process as an SUV or truck being driven through a series of gates, with each gate closing before the next would open, into the fenced arena where the tigers would be moved into a cage loaded into the vehicle. The tigers would remain locked in the cage and vehicle until delivered to the job site, according to the report.
“They’re placed in a vehicle that’s fully equipped with the proper caging. And it’s locked,” Kryszek said.
Parents like Nanette Bercu says all those precautions do little to reassure her that her kids will remain safe with wild tigers to close by.
“I think it’s wonderful they’re saving these tigers and so good to them,” she said. “But no one, absolutely no one can say human error won’t happen.”