When the Circus Comes To Town

And the stars of the show end up dead

Forty-three years later, Reginald Parr has had at least one of those and two of these and a dozen of the other. He has bought and sold and bred and borrowed and lent wildlife, especially the big cats, and he has trained animals for circuses and television commercials. He apparently foresaw most of this coming at six years of age and then made it happen, which is how most people define a life's passion.

His dead tigers are Sybil, a female Siberian, and Binanca, a male Siberian.
"Now my male, that big old knothead. He was real outgoing; he wasn't bashful at all. He wasn't afraid of humans. He followed Zettler across the street to call me; that's the only time he left my property."

"The female, I raised her from birth. She slept in bed with me. She loved to ride; she'd get in the front of the truck with me and we'd go to the country and we'd just romp and play and we'd have a great time. She loved the water. I could take her up to the lake and she'd swim with me on her back three times across the lake and back."

Parr is sitting on the couch in his mother's house, beneath that same dusty menagerie, bottle-feeding formula to a seven-week-old Siberian cub stretched across his lap.

The dead cats' hides are in a freezer in the garage.

If you've ever wondered how you, Mr. or Mrs. Private Citizen, could legally own a real live tiger, here's a list of all you need to do: Find someone with a tiger and buy it.

The United States Department of Agriculture grants licenses, but those are only necessary if you plan to breed or display your tiger. There is exactly one USDA animal welfare inspector in Texas, Charlie Currer, and he'll check up on your facility periodically. He keeps tabs on all the zoos and the pet stores, too.

Texas Parks and Wildlife used to require registration of exotic animals, but the state passed that responsibility to local municipalities in 1997, thinking that law enforcement closer to the ground could best respond to individual exotic game issues. Since then, some counties have drafted ordinances regarding private ownership of exotics, and some haven't.

In Galveston County, you can't have them at all. Period.
In Waller County, you can have all you want and send them out in their pajamas for the morning paper.

In Montgomery County, you simply have to contact the Animal Control Department and let them know what you've got.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals can investigate charges of cruelty and make recommendations but can't enforce anything.

In fact, the SPCA once responded to an anonymous complaint about Reginald Parr's cats but found the animals well housed and "in good flesh."

Charlie Currer has inspected Animal Extravaganza six times since May 1995. In December 1995, Currer recommended that Parr erect a perimeter fence around a travel cage in which he housed one tiger. At his next inspection, Currer noted that the fence was in place. In '97, Currer asked Parr to rebuild a trailer floor and to patch a leaky roof, and these things were done. And in April 1998, Currer recommended an extension of the perimeter fence to enclose several more cages which had been added over the years. By November 1998, Parr had finished that fence, too, except for one gate.

Parr owns the tigers, but he doesn't live where they do, which is in a series of cages and chainlink enclosures nestled on a 12-acre plot of marshy pine bottom. It's near the dead end of a blacktopped country road that juts off another blacktopped country road that connects to State Highway 105, which eventually intersects with I-45 near Conroe.

Parr doesn't live there because he can't. He's on parole after doing time for a late-1980s conviction for possessing chemicals used to make methamphetamine. At the time, he was already on parole for a conviction for compelling prostitution. Parr admits to possessing the chemicals, which he claims were stored for a buddy in exchange for money at a down-and-out point in his life. He made a stupid mistake, he says, and served his time.

As for the charge of compelling prostitution, he says he never did any such thing and unwisely took a plea bargain and a fine on his lawyer's advice. He's retaining new lawyers in an attempt to overturn the compulsion charge and modify the terms of his parole, and he has recently taken two independent lie detector tests that back his version of events.

He had been out of prison for two years, with no restrictions on his movement and no legal complications, when eight months ago he drew a new parole officer, Mary Carnathon, who turned the screws on him, changed his terms of parole so that he could not leave Harris County, and thus enter Montgomery County, without her prior written permission.

"We've had a personality conflict from day one, and there's been no excuse for it," says Parr. "The first time I talked to her she acted like I had accosted her mother or something, and I told her, 'Lady, I'm not the one that did that to you. I apologize to you for whoever did, but you don't have any reason to talk to me and treat me this way.'

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