Ruling awaited on tigers’ move

By kathy baratta
Staff Writer

By kathy baratta
Staff Writer

State Superior Court Judge Eugene Serpentelli, sitting in Toms River, last week denied a motion filed by an attorney representing Joan Byron-Marasek to reopen the matter of relocating her tigers.

Byron-Marasek is the owner-operator of the Tigers Only Preservation Society (TOPS), a 12-acre compound on Route 537 near Allyson Road, Jackson, where she has lived for more than 25 years. According to state investigators, she presently has 24 tigers at the site.

Following the denial of a state permit that would allow her to keep the tigers in Jackson, Byron-Marasek has been under an order to move them. State environmental officials have proposed the Wild Animal Orphanage, San Antonio, Texas, as a place to relocate the tigers.

The operator of that facility has testified in court that she can safely move the tigers from Jackson to San Antonio and provide a home for them.

For her part, Byron-Marasek has remained opposed to moving her tigers to the Wild Animal Orphanage.

In July, Serpentelli closed the book on the matter, but said he would reopen the hearing if Byron-Marasek wanted to propose her own plan for where to make the animals’ new home.

Attorney Darren Gelber was in Serpentelli’s court on Oct. 25 seeking to have the judge reopen the matter because Byron-Marasek is against the state’s plan for the relocation of her tigers.

Serpentelli denied the motion and, according to his secretary, a ruling as to where the tigers will be going is expected from the judge in a few weeks.

Earlier this month, Byron-Marasek’s husband, Jan, suffered a mauling by one of the tigers. Marasek, 70, was hospitalized for several days with head and arm injuries.

Byron-Marasek’s problems began in January 1999 when police killed a tiger that was found wandering in the vicinity of her compound.

Although Byron-Marasek, who lived quietly with her tigers for years, denied the tiger that had been shot was hers, the incident brought state investigators and the glare of publicity to her property.

Environmental officials then denied her permit renewal application and ordered the tigers removed from the site.

Byron-Marasek has been fighting the state’s order since that time.