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Man to surrender exotic animal license after panther attack

Commissioners say exotic use permit no longer appropriate in growing area

Updated Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008 | 5:42 p.m.

Pressured by Clark County and county commissioners, a man will give up his permit to have panthers and other exotic animals at his northwest Las Vegas Valley home, where neighbors say a panther escaped and attacked a neighborhood puppy in March.

While it hasn't been proven that the panther that attacked the dog was being cared for by Andy Kay, the commissioners, sitting as the County Zoning Commission, said yesterday that Kay's exotic and wild animals are no longer appropriate in the neighborhood, which was once a rural area but is now developed.

Kay, who lives near Ann Road and Riley Street (about a mile and half west of U.S. 95), has been rescuing animals for 11 years at that location and has kept some, including panthers and leopards, on his property. He says he considers it his passion and does it as a service to save the animals.

However, because of complaints filed with the county for possible animal control code violations, including the March panther attack, Clark County Animal Control initiated the effort to revoke Kay's exotic animal use permit.

Kay did have two panthers on his property at the time of the March attack, but he denies that either one of them was the panther in the attack.

On the evening of the attack, resident Alice Chang told authorities she saw a black panther with a blue collar walking along her back wall. The panther jumped into her backyard and lunged at her roommate's puppy and bit down on it. The puppy survived the attack. Chang called Metro Police, which found the panther still in the yard. When police arrived, the panther ran towards one of the officers, who shot at the panther twice but missed, police said.

The panther then got scared and escaped, they said.

Chang said she then told police that a nearby resident, referring to Kay, owned panthers that had blue collars and believed the panther belonged to him.

Russell Skuse, who represented Kay during the zoning meeting, said that minutes after the attack, police went to Kay's residence and verified that both panthers were accounted for. He also said that the officers could not verify that the panther they saw in Chang's yard was one of the panthers at Kay's residence.

Skuse also showed pictures of the panthers Kay owns wearing Santa hats and laying near Kay's dog, showing that the panthers were domesticated and would not attack another animal.

However, Joe Boteilho, director of Clark County Animal Control, said the March incident was not the first time Animal Control received complaints about animals at the Kay residence.

But whether the panther that attacked the puppy belonged to Kay or not, Commissioner Chip Maxfield said that the real issue is if an exotic animal use permit is appropriate for the growing area.

"Mr. Kay used to live on a remote street called Ann Road, but within that rural area, a subdivision has been built up," he said. Maxfield said that because Kay now has neighbors and Dean Allen Elementary School within half a mile of the home, the "I was here first" argument does not apply.

Although Maxfield lived near Kay and never heard any complaints about the animals, he said that the potential for animal problems is greater now than five years ago.

"From my point of view, that's why we do use permits -- to have the ability to watch and see what's occurring in the area and how it has been growing," he said.

Maxfield said he agreed with nearby neighbors who spoke during the meeting, including Steve Brooke, president of the homeowners association of Sable Oaks Manor, the housing development to the west of Kay's property. He brought a petition signed by 28 residents asking the commission to revoke the special use permit.

"Mr. Kay is passionate about animals, but I'm pretty passionate about the safety of my kids," Brooke said.

Because Kay is trying to get a use permit to house exotic animals in another city, the board decided not to revoke the permit immediately so that there does not appear to be a black mark on Kay's record. The board and Kay agreed that on Dec. 17, Kay will surrender the use permit.

Jenny Davis can be reached at 990-8921 or [email protected].

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