A four-year custody battle over three tigers and a leopard has ended, and the animals arrived at their new home in Minnesota.
The animals – Calcutta, an 11-year-old white Bengal tiger; Logan, an 8-year-old Siberian Bengal tiger; Caesar, an 8-year-old Bengal tiger; and Shadow, a 14-year-old black leopard – had been living in a backyard in New York State.
Steve Salton had been fighting the town where he lived since 2011 to keep the animals, which he is licensed to own by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. But back in May, Salton entered a plea bargain to surrender the cats, instead of facing jail time, the Times Union reported.
Salton worked with the Wildcat Sanctuary for over a year, and agreed to send the controversial cats to Minnesota.
On Wednesday, after a 20-hour trip from New York, they arrived at the Wildcat Sanctuary to live in a habitat that's 50 times the size of where they were before, WCCO says.
The Wildcat Sanctuary, which doesn't condone people keeping wild animals as pets, says the problem is more common than many think.
"There are so many big cats, upwards to 7,000 tigers kept in private houses across the United States, and these are a lucky few where the owner was determined to do right by them and place them in a credited facility," Tammy Thies, founder of the Wildcat Sanctuary, told Northland's NewsCenter.
Thies told the news station the sanctuary's goal is to put themselves out of business – they hope one day tigers won't have to be rescued from people's homes, so the sanctuary would no longer be needed.
There are still five states – Wisconsin, Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina and South Carolina – that allow residents to keep wildcats as a pet, WDIO reports.
The sanctuary is home to roughly 100 wildcats it has rescued, including tigers, leopards, cougars and bobcats.