Big Trouble with Big Cats

Today’s case is from all the way back in 2014, but it is simply too good to pass up when talking about home occupation. In this particular case, the petitioner was found to have an illegal home occupation due to his keeping of various exotic animals, including 3 tigers and 2 leopards. You read that correctly, tigers. As in “lions and tigers and bears, oh my.” To be specific, the petitioner was allegedly running a business in which he would display these animals to the public for a fee, essentially running an at-home zoo. Unsurprisingly, a Town Code enforcement officer took some issue with this.

The Mayfield Town Code defines a home occupation as “a businesses where the owner resides on the property and where the activities of the business are conducted inside the residence, a legally constructed accessory building, or at off-site locations.” Here, the petitioner had no employees, filed no business taxes, has no business insurance, and apparently did not charge people to view the animals, despite the business card he carried listing prices. On the other hand, the court ruled that the animal cages, which were built right into the ground on the petitioner’s property, qualified as legal “accessory buildings.” Based on the legality of the buildings and the remaining facts (or perhaps in spite of them), the court ruled the petitioner was operating a home occupation.

The question then became whether this use was grandfathered in before the enactment of the current zoning ordinance. As much as I’d like to say it was, based on the federal licenses the petitioner produced it was not, and the petitioner was compelled to end his home occupation. The real question is what happened to the big cats, but unfortunately the case doesn’t include that information. It still makes for quite the story though.

The case was Salton v Town of Mayfield Zoning Board of Appeals, WL 1316363 (NYAD 3 Dept. 2014). The opinion can be accessed at:

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