Animal Law

A man walks into a bar ... with Shere Khan, a tiger cub

John Basile has a federal license to keep wild animals on his Big Run Wolf Ranch, and he is also authorized to exhibit the animals.

But that doesn’t mean he was authorized to bring a tiger cub to his local bar in Lockport, Ill., at least as police see it.

After Basile’s alleged visit to Uncle Richie’s Place about two weeks ago with Shere Khan (apparently named after the fictional tiger in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book), the human member of the pair is now facing misdemeanor charges in Will County of reckless conduct, disorderly conduct and possession of a dangerous animal, according to CNN and the Elmhurst Patch.


Image from Shutterstock.

A police report says the tiger was leashed but not muzzled. The Lockport police chief, Terry Lemming, told the Joliet Herald-News he was concerned about public safety after learning this may not have been the first such incident.

Initially, police spotted Basile walking Shere Khan on leash down a Lockport street earlier this month, once the pair allegedly left the bar. Officers learned more as they investigated after persuading Basile to put Shere Khan in a cage. They sought both to find out exactly what had happened and whether it was illegal for someone with an exhibitor’s license to walk a tiger in public, the chief explained.

“While we were looking into possible charges, officers spoke with a woman who claimed the tiger bit her in Uncle Ritchie’s on Dec. 14, 2013,” he told the Herald-News.

Although it apparently had not occurred to Lockport officials to prohibit individuals from walking tigers down city streets, tigers are covered under the Illinois Dangerous Animals Act. A Michigan State University College of Law website provides a copy of the statute.

“After 32 years in law enforcement, I thought I had seen and heard everything,” Lemming told the Herald-News on Tuesday. “Taking your tiger for a walk downtown on a wintry day.”

Basile’s lawyers told WBBM that he has been rescuing wild animals and hosting educational events for nearly 30 years without a problem. He “has been cooperative with the authorities and looks forward to his opportunity to address the allegations in court,” they said to the Chicago radio station.

Hat tip: Daily Mail.

Updated at 10:50 a.m. to correct a reference to the Jungle Book.

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