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No Joke: Tiger Walks Into A Lockport Bar, And Police Aren't Laughing

(CBS) -- There's an old joke: Where does a tiger go for a walk?

The punch line: anywhere it wants.

Police in southwest suburban Lockport weren't laughing after a local man took his tiger cub out for some fresh air on a leash.

CBS 2's Derrick Blakley followed the animal tracks to get the story.

Lockport's never been called a wild kind of place. But where else could you see a tiger walking through downtown?

John Basile runs the Big Run Wolf Ranch just outside town. It's really a jumble of cages where Basile keeps wolves, mountain lions, and yes, a tiger are kept, just behind his home.

On a Sunday evening, Ethan Autman shot video of a man and his tiger, out on the town.

"There were people in their cars shouting like, 'Is that a tiger? Is that a tiger?' going over the Ninth Street Bridge," Frances Escoe says.

Says Autman: "He was thinking he didn't do anything wrong. I think he was kind of drunk, though."

So did police. Basile had been spotted earlier that evening inside Uncle Ritchie's Bar with his tiger. That's the same bar where Basile's tiger apparently bit a woman in December, although she never reported it.

"My concern was really for the people who frequent the downtown area," Lockport Police Chief Terry Lemming said.

Basile faces misdemeanor charges of reckless conduct and possession of a dangerous animal.

His ranch is a federally licensed business that invites the public for scheduled "open houses" and takes the animals for show to schools and charities.

Basile's attorneys said he "has been cooperative with the authorities and looks forward to his opportunity to address the allegations in court."

They also said he has been rescuing, housing, and teaching with wild animals for nearly 30 years "without incident," and regularly hosts educational events and demonstrations for children at various schools.

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