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Judge rules tigers can stay with veteran for now

Posted at 7:19 PM, Nov 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-11 22:19:56-05

UPDATE: A judge has ruled that Karl Mitchell's tigers can stay, at least for now.

The tigers can stay for the next 60 days. The owners have applied for a conditional permit to keep the tigers.

The Regional Planning Committee will vote on the permit Thursday.


A Vietnam veteran in Pahrump says his 10 pet tigers help his post traumatic stress disorder, but the county could force the animals off the property, and the veteran could face jail time.  

It's the latest roadblock for Karl Mitchell, the owner of Big Cat Encounter in Pahrump.  He's been battling Nye County for five years to keep him animals on a property near the foothills.  

Big Cat Encounters is a private wildlife sanctuary, according to its owners, which means it is not open to the public, and it is not a zoo.  

Mitchell uses the animals at the sanctuary as emotional support, but lately, the animals have been at the center of more stress for Mitchell.  Mitchell's conditional use permit to house the exotic animals on the property was revoked after he allegedly exhibited the tigers, violating the county permit.  He was asked to remove the animals from the property back in September, but as of the beginning of November, they were still on the property.  

"They're accustomed to the sights and sounds, some of them have been born here, this is all they know," says Mitchell.  

Mitchell says the fight to keep his tigers on the property has become a five year battle that has turned ugly.  He says what should be a land-use issue, has turned into animal abuse accusations.  

"There's never been an issue with how the animals have been treated or how they're cared for, it's only a land use issue, and whether or not this is a right designation, that's all it should be," says Mitchell.  

According to Nye County animal control officials, they do routine inspections at the property, and have found that the animals are in adequate health with adequate conditions.  

Mitchell is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a status update, and he could face jail time for being held in contempt of court after not removing his animals.  He says after fighting in Vietnam, fighting the government is the last thing he wants to do.  "To live under threats and fear from your government is really not a cool place to be," says Mitchell.  

Mitchell and his wife have applied for another conditional use permit and hope the judge will grant that this week.  If he is sent to jail, Mitchell says he has people and organizations ready to step in to prevent his animals from being euthanized.