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Wild Animal Trainer Moves In

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PHOENIX, Ore. — Giraffes, zebras, and even some lions, are moving in next door to a Phoenix neighborhood. The owner says the animals will bring big business to the Southern Oregon town, but others have concerns about how close the animals are to people.

A Hollywood animal trainer says he wants to bring the operation to Southern Oregon because he loves the land and loves the climate. The 41 acre property sits near homes, schools and businesses, and Oregon laws about exotic species allow them to be there.

North Houston Road is like many areas in Phoenix, home to scattered neighborhoods, farms, and businesses. Coming next year, that area gets some wild new tenants. Hollywood animal trainer Brian McMillan is moving his operation from Southern California to Phoenix, where he will raise and train several exotic animals, and put on educational programs.

“We will have programs here where we can have school kids in, and also members of the public who are interested in learning about game farming,” says McMillan.

He plans to bring those hoofed animals, and is trying to get approval for seven lions. That came as a surprise to some of its neighbors, including Phoenix High School, which is right next door. Principal Jani Hale says she’s neutral about having the animals next door, but she does worry about loud noises from football games startling the animals.

“That’s the first thing I thought of was out touchdowns. We make a touchdown and we shoot off our pirate cannon, and I thought, ‘OK, do the owners know about our cannon? Someone should tell them.’”

Many neighbors NewsWatch12 spoke to said they’re not worried, and are excited about the program.

“They just seem like very sincere people and I don’t see any threat,” said Monica Jenkins, who lives next door. “I do feel comfortable.”

So how can giraffes, zebras and lions move in next door? In Oregon, animals like zebras and giraffes fall are considered “non-controlled species” by ODFW. No agency inspects them, and there is no minimum fencing requirements, and lions are regulated by the USDA.

In California, laws are getting stricter. In September, West Hollywood banned exotic animal shows. Huntington Beach and Pasadena also have similar bans. McMillan has run his “Walking with Lions” shows for years at parks and circuses, but he says the changing laws are not influencing the move to Southern Oregon.

“We looked basically all over the United States,” McMillan says. “We love this area. As soon as we came here, we felt like we were home.”

McMillan also says he follows federal fencing and safety guidelines, to make sure nothing gets out.

“We have an impeccable safety record. We’ve never had an accident, never had an incident.”

McMillan says after seeing so much support from neighbors, it’s a project he hopes other Phoenix residents will approve of.

“We really do want the community to get behind this,” he said.

The USDA does routine inspections on lions. They issued a reports in 2008 and 2009 saying McMillan was allowing the public to get too close to the big cats. They said the issue was corrected, and McMillan has had no violations for the past two years.

McMillan says there’s still work to be done rebuilding homes and clearing land on the property. He says the animals won’t be brought in until sometime in the middle of next year.

5 comments

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  1. Fred says:

    Yeah we don’t need all them kids anyway.

  2. Annie says:

    What concerns me is the fruitcakes who like to go around to peoples’ homes & farms & ‘release’ the animals. Like they are doing a good thing. Sure.
    So, besides the valid noise problems, I would hope there is something set up to keep the perverted brains from ‘releasing’ these animals.
    Also, how will they prevent people from tormenting the animals thru fences or walls? We have had some really intelligent people shoot potato guns at our horses. What is to prevent that?
    These are WILD animals. How ‘happy’ are these animals while in captivity? I have rarely seen ‘happy’ confined wild animals.
    It would be interesting to see/hear the answers.

  3. Molly says:

    As a correction to your article, his hoofed animals ARE regulated and inspected by the USDA as he is a business and all regulated business falls under the control and inspection of the USDA.

  4. S says:

    I feel sorry for this guy, I grew up in the Rogue Valley and the community has nothing better to do then fight anything that brings change. People that fear the animals are not thinking outside the box. At least his cats are contained, I am thinking no one has thought about the 100′s of cougars lurking around the valley huh. Missing cat, missing dog? not really missing I bet. The human race just moves on in on their territories then shoot to kill when they are in your backyard. The wild cats and bears are what you should spend your time worrying about not a man that has them in cages and carries huge liability insurance on them in the event they cause any damage. Unlike most the livestock around here, most do not carry liability insurance if the animal gets out, causes a wreck or destroys someone’s property. This too will pass as soon as another super store or casino is proposed, they will find someone else to attack. I say Welcome Home!

  5. Ed says:

    Sure all you people say it’s ok, sure he has them caged up, but I bet you will change your tune win one get’s out and is chewing on your kid.

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