Veterinarians had diagnosed the 16-year-old tiger known as Shere Khan with malignant melanoma after a biopsy of a mass in her mouth.
“Five veterinarians, representing Colorado State University, the Wild Animal Sanctuary and ODA, examined the animal, reviewed its medical condition and spoke to the tiger’s regular caretakers,” department spokesman Mark Bruce said in the emailed statement. “The group unanimously decided humane euthanasia was the appropriate course of action for the animal.”
Corrina Hetrick Dankert, daughter of owner Kenny Hetrick, of Tiger Ridge Exotics, in Stony Ridge, said the tiger should have been at home in her final days.
“She should never have had to have died in a place she didn't know,” Dankert said, adding she blames the department and not the Colorado sanctuary caring for the animal.
Shere Khan was one of three tigers and a Kodiak brown bear that in October had been removed from Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in South Dakota after an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed serious problems, including the poor conditions of Shere Khan and Kody, the bear.
“Had the ODA been watching her care more closely, they may have been able to catch this earlier and taken care of it," Dankert said. “That cancer’s growth didn't occur overnight. Who knows how long she had it before the USDA came in, saw it and said they had to do something about it.”
The other remaining animals are in sanctuaries in Arizona and Florida.
Bruce said Shere Khan's condition had worsened recently and a necropsy will be completed at Colorado State University.
“There is no amount of animal husbandry or medical care that could have prevented this diagnosis or prolonged the animal's life in a humane way,” Bruce said.
The Hetrick family has been embroiled in a number of legal battles after the ODA seized 11 large exotic animals from the Tiger Ridge property in January, 2015, because Mr. Hetrick did not obtain a permit as required by state law.
Leo, an elderly lion in failing health, was killed in April, 2015, at the ODA holding facility in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
“It just reopens everything,” Dankert said. “If we win this, how many animals are we actually going to get back?”
A Wood County judge in November ruled on two cases regarding Mr. Hetrick's permit applications, ordering the animals returned and permit applications granted, but the orders were stayed pending the state's appeal in the 6th District Court of Appeals.
Another appeal regarding the state's original transfer order for the animals is pending in Franklin County, as is a third action in the Wood County court regarding the 2015 search warrant.
Contact Alexandra Mester: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.
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