Lawsuit leaves 'Meatball' cold

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Meatball the bear in swimming pool at sanctuary

Meatball the bear in swimming pool at sanctuary (Photo credit: Lions, Tigers & Bears Sanctuary)

GLENDALE (CNS) – The saga surrounding the now-famous bear captured in Glendale and being kept in San Diego County took another twist today, with a Colorado wildlife sanctuary filing a lawsuit over the caged ursine.

Affectionately named Meatball because he likes to eat them, the 5-year- old, approximately 400-pound black bear was taken out of a La Canada Flintridge swimming pool on Aug. 29 and put in a 15-by-20-foot cage at Lions, Tigers and Bears in San Diego County community of Alpine.

State Fish and Game rangers said Meatball had come out of his home in Angeles National Forest one too many times to forage through the foothill city and would be better off at a 720-acre sanctuary in Kennesburg, Colo.

Meatball was expected to be transferred from the Alpine enclosure to the sprawling Colorado sanctuary within days, but Colorado wildlife officials put the plans on hold.

California wildlife officials Tuesday confirmed that Meatball would not be going to Colorado, because of a Colorado statute that says “no wildlife taken from the wild shall be possessed by any wildlife sanctuary.” They said the bear was being well-cared for in Alpine.

The operators of the Alpine sanctuary said they wanted to raise money to build a permanent home for Meatball.

The operators of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado filed suit, saying the Colorado law contradicts the very definition of “sanctuary” as being a place of refuge that “provides care for abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned, orphaned, or displaced wildlife for their lifetime.”

“It’s just a confusing situation and we’d like some clarification,” sanctuary attorney Chris Kemper told The Los Angeles Times. According to Kemper, the lawsuit marks the first time the statute has triggered a lawsuit.

State wildlife officials in California and Colorado were unable to be reached for comment early today.

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