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Commission denies appeal, veteran to keep tigers

Posted at 7:51 AM, Jan 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-20 10:51:39-05

A married couple in Pahrump are now allowed to keep 10 tigers on their property after Nye county commissioners voted against an appeal on Tuesday.  

The vote came just months after Karl and Kayla Mitchell narrowly escaped jail time for refusing to remove those tigers from their property.

"Every morning these people get up and they got something hanging over their head, it's turmoil for them," says their property owner, Ray Mielzynski.  

The Mitchells have spent years fighting to keep their therapy tigers in Pahrump.  They were asked to remove their tigers back in September after allegedly violating their county permit.  The permit was granted again in early January, allowing the tigers to stay, but animal rights groups are making that more difficult for the Mitchells.  

Animal rights groups, including PETA, filed an appeal, asking the county to revoke that permit, and to remove the tigers, claiming the tigers are a danger to the community, and also claiming Mitchell is a danger to the tigers.  

"Karl Mitchell and Big Cat Encounters are long time animal abusers," says Brittany Peet, the deputy director of captive animal law enforcement with the PETA Foundation.  

The county denied that appeal in a 5-0 vote.  They decided the Mitchell's could keep their permit, and their tigers, which was a victory for the Mitchells.  But their attorney still says what should have just been a land-use issue turned into animal abuse accusations from an organization who he says, does not operate in Pahrump and has never seen the Mitchells interact with their tigers.  

"As a Nevadan, and as a resident of Nye County, I don't appreciate outsiders coming in and telling us how to run our organizations," says Thomas Gibson, the attorney who represents the Mitchells.  

PETA officials say they'll continue to monitor the Mitchells' actions with their tigers, and determine their next move to protect the animals.