NEW JERSEY -- The Ocean County woman whose private tiger compound was shut down by the state last fall has been ordered to repay New Jersey the cost of relocating her 24 big cats to a Texas refuge.
In November, the Department of Environmental Protection seized the Bengal tigers from the Tigers Only Preservation Society in Jackson and trucked them to San Antonio , ending a court battle over the cats that began in 1999.
On behalf of the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, the state attorney general’s office argued the relocation broke the budget of the Non-game and Exotic Species Program, which handles inspections of zoos and similar facilities.
State officials said the tiger transfer cost a total of $290,000, which included the expense of building a facility at the San Antonio refuge to house the New Jersey tigers.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare picked up part of the tab.
State officials say they are prepared to place a lien on Byron-Marasek’s property if she does not reimburse the state for the expenses.
Byron-Marasek lost her permits for the cats after a 430-pound Bengal tiger was shot and killed when it was found roaming in Jackson in January 1999. She denied the tiger came from her 15-acre compound.
However, DNA tests on the tiger's fur matched tiger fur found inside her compound.
State officials subsequently inspected her compound and ruled it substandard, triggering four years of court wrangling.
Byron-Marasek did not attend Friday’s hearing.
However, she did submit legal briefs in which she argued the state wrongfully shut down her preserve. She disputed assertions the facility was substandard and alleged the state’s actions resulted from efforts to force her to sell her property, which lies within a commercially growing area just north of Interstate 195.
(Newsday - March 20, 2004)
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