High Desert Animal Sanctuary Fighting State Fees

High Desert Animal Sanctuary Fighting State Fees

KMIR

An animal sanctuary is going to court Friday.

They say new state regulations are unfair, and could shut down their facility in the High Desert.

The Magic Jungle Wildlife Preserve used to be here in the Coachella Valley, but years ago the founder moved it out to Lucerne Valley so she could expand for the rescued big cats.

Founder Kele Younger says the state is now putting the endangered cats in danger.

"I’ve traveled all over the world for 25 years performing with these big cats and doing films such as Avatar, things like at that, and we said at one point we just want to slow it down and give back."

Three years ago, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife changed their rules adding fees for inspections.

"They’re unwarranted, especially on small businesses. And especially in light of the fact all the big zoos and all the big facilities like problematic facilities like SeaWorld all of them got a pass, none of them are paying it," said Younger.

In court documents, it says Younger has let her permit expire by refusing to pay the fees, and say they "…did not abuse their discretion in denying Young’s request for a waiver of the inspection fee, and did not implement any "underground regulation" in denying the request."

Younger says, "We’ve never objected to having and Fish and Wildlife game wardens come out and inspect our facility, our facility is open to the public, we’re inspected by federal regulators, county regulators and state regulators, our vets come out all the time."

Previously vets could do the inspection, but court documents say "After the regulatory change, in order to obtain a permit, the applicant is required to submit two fees: (1) permit fee; and (b) inspection fee."

Younger says this unfairly impacts small, non-profit sanctuaries like Magic Jungle, "We’re the third one to go to trial, and they’ve lost twice already, but they’ve done it all on taxpayer’s dollars, so they don’t care."

They go to court in San Bernardino on Friday.