PITTSBORO — A private animal investigator says the Carnivore Preservation Trust, near Pittsboro, has deteriorated to the point that animals and neighbors are in "immediate jeopardy."
The trust houses tigers, jaguars, leopards and other large cats.
The people who run the Chatham County preserve are defending their operation.
The author of the report has credentials. Sherry Blanchette has her own exotic feline preserve in Virginia.
It is worth noting that she got a tour of the Chatham County facility under false pretenses, saying she was an animal doctor from the United Kingdom.
Her assessment has led to quite a catfight over the Carnivore Preservation Trust. Blanchette says the trust has deteriorated so much that it has put both animals and the public at risk.
"Sometimes there was a little kernel of truth in there," says Timm Muth, who is on the trust's board.
People in charge of the preserve gave us a tour a few hours after we requested one. They dispute claims that the facility is not safe because of vegetation on cages, rusting feed bins, and fence wire held to posts with metal twist ties.
The report went on to say that several cages collapsed during the winter from the weight of the snow.
The Carnivore Preservation Trust denies that.
Still, the report has sparked the interest of Chatham County, the only agency that regulates the 20-year-old, 55-acre preserve.
Assistant County Manager Vickie McConnell said the county will be investigating.
By law, the trust must have an electric fence around it. The trust's fence has no current running through it, and trust officials said that the county decided not to enforce that portion of the code.
The trust has operated for 20 years; no animal has escaped since the fence was put in 12 years ago.
But a former employee blames safety lapses for two attacks on caregivers in the past few years.