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Alligator handler’s case goes to appella

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Posted by: EricWI at Sun Oct 28 18:32:00 2012  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by EricWI ]  
   

Alligator handler’s case goes to appellate court

Alligator handler Ken Henderson's municipal court conviction will be reviewed by a Missouri appellate court, after a Boone County judge ruled the ordinance that Henderson was convicted of violating does not apply to gators.

The city of Columbia has appealed Boone County Circuit Court Judge Gary Oxenhandler's August ruling that alligators do not fall within the parameters of "exotic" or "dangerous" as defined in the city ordinance Henderson was convicted of violating.

The Western District Court of Appeals is considering the case, but a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

"It saddens me that it has come to this because Ken Henderson's sole purpose is to educate people," Kevin O'Brien, Henderson's attorney, said of the matter going to the appellate court. "To put people through this is unfortunate."

A municipal judge in December found Henderson, 67, of Kansas City guilty of two counts of possessing dangerous and exotic animals in relation to a June 2011 incident when two of his alligators were found in the backyard of his daughter's residence on Mikel Street. Henderson appealed the ruling to circuit court, where Oxenhandler found that the city ordinance Henderson was found to be in violation of did not apply to alligators.

Assistant City Prosecutor Adam Kruse said the matter is not a concern to the city because the ordinance has since been strengthened through an amendment and because Henderson's case is the only he knows of in recent years involving alligators.

Just weeks after the June 2011 incident, the Columbia City Council amended the dangerous exotic animal ordinance to include in the definition "any other exotic animal declared by the director to be dangerous." That means Boone County/Columbia Public Health and Human Services has the authority to determine whether animals are dangerous or exotic or if they fit the definition provided in the ordinance or not.

"We do have experience under our belts here," said Molly Aust, Animal Control supervisor. "If you get a complaint about 7-foot alligators, it's not a stretch to believe it is a dangerous animal."

Henderson, who claims his gators are domesticated, has appeared on Animal Planet with his "pets."

The change to the ordinance was not in response to Henderson's case, said Geni Alexander, Public Health and Human Services spokeswoman. The amendment was in the works for quite a while in response to Circuit Judge Jodie Asel's dismissal of a 2009 case against a Columbia woman charged with violating an ordinance by feeding feral cats. The case was dismissed on grounds similar to Henderson's case, which prompted the review.

Aust, who cited Henderson for the alligators, said she was surprised to hear of Henderson's successful appeal. She said she feels confident in the ordinances she enforces.

The discretion given to her office is not final, she said, because any declaration of an animal as exotic or dangerous can be appealed.

"It's not like we take these cases personally. We just issue the summons," Aust said.

The Mikel Street incident also resulted in the search of Henderson's van, and 17 additional misdemeanor charges of animal abuse and neglect filed in the circuit court, because the animals were found outside city limits. A trial date is yet to be set on those charges.
www.columbiatribune.com/news/2012/oct/28/alligator-handlers-case-goes-to-appellate-court/


   

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