A plan to house five tigers in Santa Monica Mountains near the Malibu coast has generated opposition from neighbors who say they’re worried about the wild animals escaping.
Dozens of residents wore neon hats and matching T-shirts stating “No Tigers” at a packed hearing on the proposal before the Ventura County Planning Commission Thursday.
The residents oppose a plan by the owner of a former horse-keeping property in an unincorporated area of Ventura County to erect a facility that would care for tigers to be used for filming in the entertainment industry.
The home on Pacific View Road is on a 19-acre parcel in an incorporated area of Ventura County (map) west of Malibu. There, sisters Irena Hauser and Sophia Kryszek want to house Bengal tigers.
The sisters had dozens of supporters at Thursday’s hearing, including a stuntwoman who has worked with tigers kept by the sisters since the animals were cubs.
“If they were to get out for some reason, which they never would, they would be scared,” stuntwoman Annie Ellis said. “They wouldn’t run through Ventura County, through all the housing developments, looking for somebody’s little kid.”
But those who live close the proposed facility, which is in an area of large residential properties, were concerned. They were joined by Actress Tippi Hedren, who runs an animal sanctuary in Acton that rescues big cats.
“This is a life and death issue,” she stated in an opinion piece published in the Malibu Times in September. “There’s no such thing as a tame lion or tiger.”
Hedren recounted injuries — including to herself and her daughter — that occurred at her Antelope Valley property from 1976 to 1981, when animals were used for filming there. Hedren’s Shambala Preserve stopped acting as a movie set in 1983, she wrote.
At Thursday’s hearing, commissioners were weighing whether to issue a 20-year permit that would allow five tigers at the Pacific View Road home.
The proposal included an 8-foot fence around 7 acres of the property, as well as a nearly 15-foot fence around a small training area for the tigers, according to a Planning Commission staff report.
County staff had recommended the permit be denied, stating in part that the “keeping of wild animals is more appropriate in a remote rural area with less population density than the proposed project site.”
An online petition opposing the permit had garnered nearly 1,200 signatures by midday Thursday.
“Wild tigers are a threat to our safety and serenity,” the petition site stated. “Captive tigers often escape during transport, cleaning or feeding, or during natural disasters. When they do escape, tigers follow their natural instincts, maiming and killing.”
KTLA’s Courtney Friel contributed to this article.