Saturday, February 7, 2004

Wild animal sanctuary to close for repairs

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Paul Strasser pets Topaz, one of three timber wolves at Red Wolf Sanctuary.
(Enquirer file photo)
DILLSBORO, Ind. - An investigation into escaped wolves has led a sanctuary for wild animals to close.

Until the Red Wolf Sanctuary and Raptor Rehabilitation Center can meet federal and state standards, owner Paul Strasser said, visitors can't tour the more-than-20-acre site. He's allowed to keep the wolves, bears, coyotes and other wild animals but will have to make more than $100,000 in improvements, such as fencing, before he can acquire permits and tours can resume.

Tours scheduled there for today have been canceled.

It's the first time in the nonprofit center's 25-year history that Strasser said he has had to close. He's not sure where he'll get the money and staff to make the necessary changes.

"We'll open as soon as we can comply with the regulations," he said.

"In a perfect world, given what we have to do, we'd be open by the end of the summer. In the reality, I have no idea."

Indiana Conservation officers this week investigated the sanctuary, three miles west of Dillsboro on Ind. 62, after 10 wolves broke free from their 3-acre pen last week. Most were rounded up, though a couple died.

"Any time a wild animal escapes, especially when it's a class of wild animal that poses a threat to the public, whether or not we're directly involved in the permitting process, we're still going to go and check it out," said Capt. Terry Hyndman, Indiana Conservation Officers' south regional commander.

The investigation continues, he added.

While the sanctuary has been working on upgrades, Strasser said the fencing and other improvements are not complete so he cannot get the necessary permits to continue the tours.

Today's scheduled tour will be canceled.

The center relies on donations, so its closing could affect funding.

"We're not going to turn our back on animals just because we have no money," Strasser said.

"We'll do whatever we can to continue."


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