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Man's pet tigers, leopards, jaguars under fire

1:25 PM, May 27, 2011   |    comments
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Owner-exhibitor Steve Salton obtained her almost two years ago from the Asheville Zoo but stresses Calcutta and the other big cats that live behind his Mayfield, New York home aren't pets.

"They'll kill when they're hungry and they'll kill if they're provoked," Salton said. "They're always locked up."

Neighbor Rich Travis has no affection for the wild animals caged next door. He wants them gone and is doing his best to make that happen.

"No one wants to step up and so we keep pushing the issue and pushing the issue," said Travis.

Salton is inspected regularly by state and federal authorities and issued licenses to have the animals. He's obliged to exhibit them, which he does, by appointment. That hardly satisfies Travis.

"My complaint is with the system that allows something like this to go on", Travis said.

Travis lives in a house built by developer Don Russell, who hasn't been able to sell a neighboring 3,800-square-foot model in three years.

He's asking $438,000. Russell has plans to build 10 other houses, if he can solve the tiger problem.

"We've had two buyers that backed out," Russell said. "He said there's no way that I want to bring my family in here with somebody that has what he has next door."

Although next door neighbors, neither side is talking to the other or seems interested in compromise.

"I'm all legal and everything," Salton said.

"I don't think anyone in their right mind would want to live next to something like this," said Travis.

Tiger opponents started complaining to Mayfield town officials a year ago, pointing out the whole area including the Tiger compound is zoned residential.

However, Town Supervisor Richard Argotsinger says the big cat exhibit may qualify as a home occupation or hobby, which is an allowed use. Officials continue to study the question with no deadline for a decision.

(Copyright © 2011 NBC Universal, All Rights Reserved)

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