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Colorado Animal Sanctuary Euthanizes All Its Animals After It’s Denied Permit To Move

April 28, 2017


The Lion’s Gate Sanctuary put down its three lions, three tigers and five bears. Photo/Facebook

A wild animal sanctuary in Colorado has euthanised all its animals after a relocation dispute.

The Lion’s Gate Sanctuary put down its three lions, three tigers and five bears on April 20 after local county commissioners denied their request to move about 20 miles from its site southeast of Denver, according to Daily Mail.

Sanctuary owner and local psychologist, Dr. Joan Laub, said she had “no other option” because the site had repeatedly flooded over the past two years making it impossible for them to care for the animals properly, Mercury News reports.

But Elbert County Commissioners said they were “shocked” and “saddened” by the decision after the said the sanctuary’s owners had promised to continue to care for animals at the center if their proposal was turned down.

“The decision by the operators of Lion’s Gate to euthanise all their animals comes as a total surprise,” they said in a statement.

“Only two weeks earlier, the operators of the facility assured the County in a public forum that if the application was denied, they would continue to operate at their current location as they had for the previous 10 years.”

However, Laub strenuously denies ever giving such assurance calling the claim a “blatant lie.”

“We want to be clear we did not put our animals down because we were denied by the Elbert County Commissioners,” she said in a statement to the DailyMail.com.

“We put our animals down because it was NO LONGER SAFE FOR THEM AND NOLONGER SAFE FOR THE PUBLIC. This was made abundantly clear to the Elbert County Commissioners.

“The commissioners were not concerned with the safety of residents around the Sanctuary only the residents at the re-location site.”


Zuri the lion: One of the many former inhabitants of Lion’s Gate Sanctuary before the mass euthanasia. Photo/Facebook

The commissioners added that the nearby Keenesburg Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to 450 animals, had publicly offered to care for the animals at their facility if Lion’s Gate was unable to do so.

Pat Craig, the founder and executive director of Keenesberg park told Denver7 that Lion’s Gate had so few animals “they would easily be able to place every animal with another wildlife sanctuary,” adding he was surprised the owners didn’t try and find a new home for them.

“Given these facts, the news that Lion’s Gate euthanised all 11 animals at the same time and so shortly after the decision to deny the move comes as a shock,” the county commissioners said.

Dr Laub argued that she was not able to move the animals, some of which are endangered species, to another sanctuary because they were old and vulnerable.

It is not clear why she believed the creatures would fare any better if moved to a new Lion’s Gate location.

“We did think long and hard about relocating these animals,” she said.

“However, due to their ages and disabilities they would not have survived a move to a new facility. Our vet agreed.”

Colorado Parks and Wildlife say they are aware of the mass euthanasia at Lion’s Gate, which states on Facebook that its purpose was to “rescue and protect exotic animals”, but said that sanctuary owners are within their legal rights to work with their vets to decide if and when to put down animals.

They do not require permission from authorities – even if the creatures in question are endangered.

All 11 wild animals have since been buried.


Laub and her partner Peter Winney were denied permission to move their sanctuary to a new site weeks before they decided to put down all 11 animals. Photo/Getty Images

The move has sparked fury among animal lovers who have questioned how a sanctuary set up to care for animals can justify killing them over a relocation dispute, with many saying the owners should be “ashamed.”

However, the Lion’s Gate Sanctuary hit back at the criticism on its Facebook page, passing the blame to the Elbert County Commissioners.

“Danny Willcox, Chris Richardson, and Grant Thayer they were told over and over that the Agate facility was no longer safe for the animals or the public,” it said in a statement.

“They ignored the property rights of the owners and instead gave in to the hysterical ravings of the NIMBY.

“They were told that there were no other options they knew what the result would be and they didn’t care. Do not be fooled if there was any way to save the animals it would have happened.”

“The commissioners knowingly sentence(d) the animals to death.”

The statement added that the owners, Laub and her partner Peter Winney were “completely devastated” to have had to put the lions, tigers and bears down.

“They are just as much victims of Elbert County,” it continued.


Lion’s Gate Sanctuary stated on social media that its purpose was to “rescue and protect exotic animals”, such as this bear. Sadly, all its exotic animals have now been killed. Photo/Facebook

The dispute over relation has been running for years.

Lion’s Gate first requested permission to build a new sanctuary outside the flood zone more than a decade ago but the planning board rejected the request in 2006.

More recently, Laub and Winney requested a Use by Special Review permit for a 45-acre property near Elizabeth to relocate their sanctuary away from the flood plain.

But earlier this month, Elbert County commissioners unanimously voted to deny the request.

“This decision was based on concerns that the proposed plan for relocation of these animals was not adequately resourced, nor were exigency plans clearly defined which would ensure the safety of the animals and the surrounding residents,” the commissioners said in a statement.

“We would have loved to have seen these animals be allowed to live out their lives at the Elbert County location that had been their home for more than a decade,” added Commissioner Chris Richardson.

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2 responses to “Colorado Animal Sanctuary Euthanizes All Its Animals After It’s Denied Permit To Move”

  1. Donna says:

    You could have taken them to the other sanctuary instead of killing them! Shame on you!

  2. A.Mirdik says:

    On the surface, it does seem alarming, but if those animals were truely so old and disabled as stated, then maybe it was for the best. The truth lies somewhere in between. Overalll a truly sad situation

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