LOS ANGELES -- A couple who allegedly owned a tiger that escaped into a suburban area and was shot have been banned from visiting exotic animals they own.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Johnson ordered Gert "Abby" Hedengran, 56, and wife Roena "Emma" Hedengran, 52, to sell the animals or place them in someone else's custody within 30 days, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns said Tuesday. The Hedengrans were charged with obstruction of justice and other counts after the tiger was shot and killed near a Moorpark neighborhood early this year.
The judge revoked the couple's visitation rights with more than 24 other cats after ruling the couple violated their bond agreement related to the February shooting.
After the tiger was killed, the Hedengrans were forced to move their cats to an exotic-animal facility in Pahrump, Nev. As part of their bond agreement, they were not allowed to have possession of the animals but were allowed to visit and help care for them.
Somehow, prosecutors said, they got possession of the animals again.
Johnson told the pair Tuesday they are not allowed to possess, visit or care for the animals and must allow federal animal welfare searches of their home.
The couple moved from Temecula to the Moorpark area in late January, settling into a trailer home with nearly two dozen animals, including lions, tigers and lynxes. During the move, a lynx and a tiger escaped, state wildlife officials said.
State game wardens tranquilized and captured the lynx Jan. 31, an arrest affidavit said. But wardens were not told the tiger had escaped until residents reported seeing a large cat, and paw prints turned up between Simi Valley and the Santa Rosa Valley.
Wildlife officials found and shot the tiger Feb. 23 in a park near two schools and residences in Moorpark. The 350-pound tiger had been declawed and apparently was raised in captivity, but authorities did not know this until they killed the animal.
The couple have denied owning the tiger.
But investigators used photographs to confirm the tiger belonged to the Hedengrans, "including one of Abby and the tiger," said Steve Martarano, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game.
"They lied repeatedly about ownership of the cat. They said from the start that they had no missing animals," Martarano said.
Gert Hedengran was charged with making false statements to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, submitting false records, destroying evidence and obstructing justice. He faces up to 60 years in federal prison if convicted.
Roena Hedengran was charged with obstru! ction of justice and witness tampering. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in federal prison.
The couple are due in court Dec. 5 for arraignment, but Johns said he expects to present the case to a federal grand jury for indictment before then.