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June 28, 1999

For more information contact:
Al Ivany at 908-637-4125

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP's) Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife today announced that hair samples discovered in the Tigers Only Preservation Society (T.O.P.S.) facility in Jackson Township, Monmouth County matched hair samples taken from the escaped tiger euthanized in Jackson on January 27, 1999. The findings are the result of an intensive, four-month investigation conducted by the Division to identify the origin of the escaped cat.

"According to laboratory reports, the DNA profile of the escaped tiger matches the evidence samples recovered from the T.O.P.S. facility," said Jim Hall, assistant commissioner of DEP's Natural and Historic Resources. "This additional information merely affirms our previous statements regarding the escaped tiger and reinforces the Department's position to deny Ms. Byron-Marasek's application to renew her Animal Theatrical Permit."

Byron-Marasek's application to renew her permit was denied last month for failing to provide adequate justification on theatrical activities. The Division also concluded that the facilities maintained are too small for the number of tigers present and do not provide enough room for exercise and privacy. Sanitary conditions, lack of proper veterinary care, undocumented diet and failure to inspect the existing perimeter fence were additional factors sited in the denial of Ms. Byron-Marasek's permit.

Although she has made some of the structural changes required, such as a fence overhang, cement footings and the addition of a temporary trailer for shelter, Ms. Byron-Marasek has not addressed many of the improvements necessary for the health and well-being of the tigers. Conditions were still unsanitary and overcrowded when the facility was inspected three weeks ago. Since that time, Byron-Marasek has denied Division officials access to her property.

Ms. Byron-Marasek has requested a hearing on this denial. Her request will be heard before an administrative law judge. A date has not yet been scheduled. If the permit denial is sustained, she will be required to submit a plan detailing the safe removal of the tigers to an acceptable destination. In the event Ms. Marasek does not or cannot place the tigers, the Division has researched a list of acceptable destinations and is prepared to remove the animals.

In January, conservation officers with the DEP's Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife recovered hair samples inside the T.O.P.S. compound. These samples, along with specimens from the euthanized tiger, were sent to Forensic Science Associates in Richmond, California where DNA samples were extracted. The extracted samples were then forwarded to AgGen, Inc. in Davis, California. The test results revealed a match between the samples taken from the euthanized tiger and the samples recovered from the T.O.P.S. facility.