DEP Removes 24 Tigers Illegally Kept as Pets
Tigers will be driven nonstop to the Wild Animal Orphanage
Photo caption: DEP photo of tiger enclosures
filled with feces, urine, and mud taken at Joan Byron-Marasek's
property in Jackson Township. The tigers were moved
to the Wild Animal Orphanage's new, 102-acre facility
located outside San Antonio, Texas. More Photos
- The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with
assistance from the Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) and the
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) today began
moving 24 neglected and unpermitted tigers from a private
facility in Jackson Township to a non-profit animal sanctuary
"We are moving these tigers today to end a saga of
lawbreaking cruelty to these animals," DEP Commissioner
Bradley M. Campbell said. "Joan Byron-Marasek and
her husband, Jan Marasek, not only kept these 24 tigers
as pets, but they kept them in squalor."
During an inspection just last week, the DEP's Division
of Fish and Wildlife found the cats forced to choose between
pacing knee-deep through a mixture of mud and feces, or
taking shelter in their filthy trailers.
Some tigers lived in such cramped spaces, they barely
had enough room to turn around or stand. The ground on
which these majestic creatures were forced to recline was
perpetually wet during the winter months. The Maraseks
continually failed to refrigerate the tigers' food, and
routinely fed them rotting deer carcasses, black with flies,
and other spoiled meat.
The Maraseks ignored the pleas of animal-welfare groups
and a state Superior Court order to keep the tigers segregated
by gender so they wouldn't breed and bring even more tigers
into these abysmal conditions. In March 2001, the DEP documented
a male and female tiger purposely caged together and mating.
The deplorable, cramped conditions here resulted in multiple
court rulings that culminate today with the tigers' removal
to the WAO. The tigers will live at the group's new facility
located on a 102-acre tract outside San Antonio, Texas.
The WAO is a 20-year-old non-profit institution that is
licensed by the USDA and regularly inspected.
The DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife, in cooperation
with the WAO, the Jackson Township Police Department and
the International Fund for Animal Welfare, are taking every
precaution to ensure this move goes smoothly and safely
for the tigers and the public. Each tiger is being loaded
into an individual traveling cage that will be rolled into
a large truck container and carried by one of four tractor-trailers
to San Antonio. A rotating team of drivers accompanied
by two veterinarians will drive the tigers nonstop through
the night. The trip to San Antonio will take fewer than
"Today, as when the prior administration first began
this investigation nearly five years ago, our goal remains
the same: to provide for the safety of the Jackson community
and to provide the tigers with clean, humane living conditions
befitting these majestic animals," Campbell said.
The DEP began investigating the Maraseks' Tigers Only
Preservation Society on Monmouth Road in January 1999,
after law enforcement officials shot and killed a 431-pound
Bengal tiger found loose and roaming about Freehold Township.
A DNA analysis of a tiger hair found on a briar inside
the Maraseks' perimeter fence but outside the tiger compound
matched the DNA of the roaming tiger.
Superior Court Judge Eugene D. Serpentelli established
on May 7, 2003, that the DEP and the WAO can take ownership
of the tigers and move them Texas. The Maraseks forfeited
their ownership by failing to either obtain the proper
exotic animal permits or to voluntarily move the tigers
out of New Jersey.
The DEP thanks the WAO and the IFAW for their substantial
time and financial support with today's move. The DEP also
thanks the Humane Society of the United States and Princeton
University, home of the Princeton Tigers, for their generous