FWC responds proactively to protect people, animals
Monday, February 27, 2012
Media contact: Jorge Pino, 561-723-1417; Carli Segelson, 772-215-9459
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigators and officers served a search warrant today in Loxahatchee, Palm Beach County, where they seized two tigers and one leopard from a facility maintained by Steve Sipek and Melanie Boynes.
“Mr. Sipek and Ms. Boynes were in violation of federal and state laws that are in place to keep both people and animals safe and healthy,” said Maj. Curtis Brown, leader of the FWC’s Captive Wildlife and Investigations Section. “The FWC removed the animals to protect public safety and to place them in a licensed, healthy and safe facility.”
The warrant authorized the seizure of the animals based on the facility’s repeated failure to correct violations, including multiple bites and escapes, fencing and caging deficiencies, possession of Class I wildlife without proof of consistent and sustained commercial activity, possession of Class I wildlife without a U.S. Department of Agriculture permit and feeding animals an improper diet.
“After previous inspections and correspondence, the couple has continuously failed to comply with FWC and USDA regulations, presenting safety concerns at the facility,” Brown said. “Sipek has also told FWC investigators that nobody would ever take his animals, causing additional safety concerns.”
The FWC has worked extensively with the captive wildlife industry and stakeholders to establish the best possible rules for public safety and humane treatment of the animals. Applicants must meet USDA regulations as well as state regulations to possess and/or exhibit Class I wildlife. Class I wildlife are those that could pose a significant danger to people, and include large cats.
Florida’s strict requirements that owners must meet to obtain a permit to possess Class I wildlife include being financially responsible, having ample training and experience, providing reference letters and establishing disaster-response plans. The land used for the facilities must meet local zoning and acreage requirements and cages must be appropriate in size and design.
“We want to support the ethical and legitimate use of wildlife,” Brown said. “We value our partnerships with the zoological and wild animal rescue community throughout Florida, as well as our relationships with responsible, properly maintained captive wildlife facilities.”
There are 255 facilities in Florida licensed to possess Class I wildlife, seven of which are in Palm Beach County. These facilities are inspected at least twice a year to ensure continued compliance.
Sipek and Boynes have a right to appeal the agency’s actions if they believe the actions were unjust.
For more information about captive wildlife regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Wildlife or call 850-488-6253.