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THREAT? :  In all likelihood, there won’t be any repercussions for the rancher who shot three of Hearst Ranch’s zebras. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HEARSTCASTLE.ORG
  • THREAT? : In all likelihood, there won’t be any repercussions for the rancher who shot three of Hearst Ranch’s zebras.

Public outcry over zebras that were recently shot and killed has amounted to, well, not much.

On Jan. 5, three zebras escaped Hearst Ranch in Cambria and were shot by two property owners who said they did so to protect their livestock.

According to Alan Baker, director of the Charles Paddock Zoo and Central Coast Zoo Society, special rules for exotic animals tend to stop once they’re in the country. Any regulations for zebras focus on bringing them into the country or state and private ownership, Baker said. In this case, he said, it’s not a black-and-white situation.

“Really, the fact that they’re zebras is almost kind of a non-issue with this,” Baker said. “They kind of fall into that gray area.”

Indeed, property owners are allowed to shoot an animal if they feel it’s a threat to themselves or their own animals. San Luis Obispo County Animal Services Director Eric Anderson said the issue fell outside of his department’s jurisdiction, but shooting the zebras was a “reasonable action.” Because they were exotic animals, the SLO County Sheriff’s Department deferred its authority to the California Department of Fish and Game. Spokesman Rob Bryn said there had been no referral from Fish and Game to follow up.

“They didn’t see a crime,” Bryn said.

But the actions of David Fiscalini—the rancher who shot two of the zebras and later contacted a taxidermist to have them skinned, according to the L.A. Times—seemed to throw more fuel on an
already blazing fire of public outrage.

“And to add insult to injury, the fact that they intend to make rugs out of the animals’ hides is really despicable,” said Lisa Wathney, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Fiscalini could not be reached for comment.

According to Wathney, there’s no additional protection just because the animals were zebras, which she said is unfortunate and would only change at the legislative level with enough public support.

“Zebras are zebras,” Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian said. “Shooting them wasn’t acceptable, but that’s for the property owners to discuss.”

Steve Hearst of the Heart Corporation issued a statement to local media calling for the end of the controversy.

“In this case, I don’t see the laws changing soon,” Wathney said. ∆


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