February 15, 1997 in Nation/World

Owners Of Exotic Pets Slow To Come Forward Cougar Owners Are First To Seek License Under New Spokane County Ordinance

By The Spokesman-Review

Owners of exotic animals are not exactly stampeding to obey a new Spokane County law requiring them to license their critters.

Only one set of exotic pet owners had filed paperwork to license their cougar as of Friday. Owners of as many as 100 more creepy, crawly and wild pets have ignored the law, despite a licensing deadline that passed last month.

“I know a lot of them are out there, but I don’t know where they’re at,” said Nancy Sattin, county animal control director and the woman charged with enforcing the law.

A Spokane Valley couple whose pet cougar was euthanized after it bit a child last spring was the first in the county to apply for a license. The biting incident rekindled a four-year debate about regulating exotic animals and led to the new law.

Sattin on Friday inspected the backyard kennel that houses Randy and LaVina McGlenn’s new 9-month-old pet cougar, Charlie. Sattin expects to issue the McGlenns a license next week.

The law that took effect last December requires residents of unincorporated areas of the county to register their “inherently dangerous” pets with animal control and purchase a license. The city of Spokane does not currently regulate exotic pets.

The county licenses, which must be renewed annually, cost $50 for each reptile and $100 for each mammal. Owners of such pets must carry $50,000 in liability insurance coverage and meet strict housing and care requirements.

Animals regulated by the exotic pet law include wild cats, wolves, bears, venomous snakes and all species of crocodiles.

When the ordinance went into effect, animal control officials gave residents 60 days to license their pets. The deadline passed Jan. 29.

The McGlenns purchased Charlie to “fill a void” left by another pet cougar, also named Charlie, that was killed following the April biting incident.

The new cat, who has lived in the kennel behind the McGlenns’ house on Farr Road since last May, basked in the attention he received while Sattin inspected his home Friday.

Randy McGlenn teased his cat with a towel, enticing Charlie to take a swing with a powerful paw.

After a few minutes, the 100-pound cat grew tired of the game and flopped onto his back. He wanted his tummy scratched.

“You’re just having all kinds of fun, aren’t you?” McGlenn said while the cat purred loudly. “You’re getting all kinds of attention.”

Outside the 15-by-30-foot kennel, Sattin carefully studied Charlie’s home, clipboard in hand.

Double fence? Check. Covered kennel? Check. Enough room for the cat to roam? Check. Protection from the weather? Check. Eight-foot, sight-obstructing fence? Check.

Enough distance between the kennel and the surrounding secondary fence? Not quite the 5 feet Sattin would like, but she was satisfied children wouldn’t be able to stick their hands into the cougar’s cage. Check.

And on the inspection went.

McGlenn has built a small enclosure into which Charlie can crawl to escape bad weather, such as the icy rain that fell Friday. Inside, the luxury of a heat lamp, a self-replenishing water supply and a loft lined with wood shavings awaited.

“He’s actually got a pretty nice little set up,” Sattin said.

In fact, Sattin said if Charlie’s owners would add warning signs for passers-by, his home would be a model for other exotic pet owners - if they ever come forward.

Besides Charlie, Sattin has been told of a Ponderosa resident who owns a bobcat and a lynx. A lion owner who lives west of Spokane also has called.

Neither have submitted licensing applications.

“Every violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor, which is a crime,” Sattin said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email