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Colorado wildlife sanctuary files lawsuit to get Glendale bear

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A Colorado wildlife sanctuary blocked by state officials from taking in the Glendale bear known as Meatball has filed a lawsuit to try to overturn a regulation it claims is being invoked at the expense of the beloved 400-pound bruin.

Colorado wildlife officials have said a state regulation prohibits wild animals such as Meatball from being kept at sanctuaries. Their counterparts in California agree, saying there are no plans to transport the bear to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado, which filed the lawsuit in Denver.

Operators of the sanctuary have been adamant that the Colorado regulation should be revoked, saying their facility is best equipped to accommodate the bear.

PHOTOS: The Glendale bear captured for good?

According to the lawsuit, the problem with the regulation is that it contradicts the definition of “sanctuary” in Colorado law as being a place of refuge that “provides care for abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned, orphaned, or displaced wildlife for their lifetime.”

However, the regulation tacked onto the law that governs parks and wildlife states no animal “taken from the wild shall be possessed by any sanctuary.”

“It’s just a confusing situation and we’d like some clarification,” said Chris Kamper, the sanctuary’s attorney.
Meatball is currently living in a 15-by-20-foot cage at the Lions, Tigers and Bears rescue facility in San Diego County, where new, permanent digs for him are being planned.

Meatball was tranquilized and captured twice earlier this year after foraging for food in neighborhood trash cans and taking a dip in a pool in the foothills above Glendale. Each time he was transported to locations deep inside Angeles National Forest, but each time he returned, prompting a new plan to capture him again and place him permanently in a wildlife refuge.

But the path from Lions, Tigers and Bears in Alpine to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado was blocked when fish and game officials there invoked the regulation.

In its lawsuit, the Wild Animal Sanctuary — which houses former wild animals — wants a judge in Colorado’s 2nd Judicial District Court to block the state from enforcing its rule prohibiting sanctuaries from housing wildlife.

Kamper said this would be the first time the issue got a court hearing. Fish and game officials in California and Colorado declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary also launched a campaign encouraging the public to flood decision-makers in Colorado with letters, emails and phone calls asking for the regulation to be lifted on behalf of Meatball and other animals that may be in similar situations.

John Singletary, chairman of the 11-member Colorado Wildlife and Parks Commission that has the power to change the rule, said Tuesday he’s received more than 180 emails about Meatball.

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-- Brittany Levine, Times Community News

Follow Brittany on Google+ or Twitter @brittanylevine

Photo: Meatball cools off Tuesday in a water tub at his temporary home in Alpine in San Diego County. Credit: Lions, Tigers and Bears sanctuary

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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