90 Tigers Found Dead At Calif. Home

Riverside animal control officer Lacey Chester removes a goat from the property of Marla Smith and husband John Weinhart Tuesday, April 22, 2003 in Glen Avon, Calif. Both were arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty. The Department of Fish and Game served a search warrant at their property after a tip that there were dead tigers and other exotic cats on the property. The remains of as many as 30 big cats were found.
AP Photo/The Press Enterprise
Ninety dead tigers, including 58 cubs discovered in freezers, were found dead at the home of an animal rescuer, authorities said.

John Weinhart, 60, who runs Tiger Rescue and had previously been accused of improperly caring for tigers, was arrested Tuesday for investigation of animal cruelty and child endangerment.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the child endangerment charged stemmed from the fact that Weinhart's 8-year-old son lived in the animal-infested home. Also arrested were Weinhart's wife, Marla Smith, and veterinarian Wendelin Ringel.

The newspaper said investigators found 11 tiger and leopard cubs crawling about the attic of Weinhart's home. There were two small alligators in the bathtub and two hungry tigers on the porch, officials said.

Thirty dead adult tigers, including some with their legs tied together, were found in a yard outside the home, the Times said.

"The worst of it was that everywhere you went on the property there were dead animals," investigator Chuck Traisi told the newspaper. "Everyone was in a state of disbelief. There were cats that had long been dead and in various states of decay strewn everywhere."

A spokesman for Tiger Rescue, a refuge for former animal performers, said all the animals were cared for properly.

"We don't feel we've done anything wrong," Steve Jeffries said. "We have enough food, water and shelter for all the cats."

Jeffries said the dead cubs were kept frozen because "we want to make sure there's nothing infectious." He said the organization had not yet examined the carcasses.

Animal Services spokesman Ralph Rivers said it will be impossible to determine what killed the animals because of the advanced state of decomposition. "It was a very nasty scene out there," he said.

Weinhart, who is licensed by the state to keep tigers and other big cats, had already been scheduled to stand trial next month in San Bernardino County on 10 misdemeanor charges stemming from what prosecutors say was improper care of tigers at Tiger Rescue.

The state Department of Fish and Game removed 10 tiger cubs from Tiger Rescue in November, saying the sanctuary in Colton didn't have the proper permits for the cubs and the agency was concerned about their welfare.