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November 12, 2003

Contact: Jack Kaskey
(609) 984-1795


DEP Removes 24 Tigers Illegally Kept as Pets

Tigers will be driven nonstop to the Wild Animal Orphanage in Texas

dep photo

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


(03/163) TRENTON - 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 in Texas.

"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 30 hours.

"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 support.


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