MAHONING COUNTY Decision about cub rescinded
A judge ordered that the lion be handed over, then rescinded the action.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Boomerang the lion isn't leaving for California just yet.
A judge had issued an order Monday for operators of Noah's Lost Ark, an exotic animal sanctuary in Berlin Township, to hand over the lion to its owner, William Long, by midweek.
The sheriff's department was instructed to go along and assist with the transfer of custody.
But at the time he signed the order, Visiting Judge Charles J. Bannon of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court was unaware of a separate decision by Magistrate Eugene Fehr giving lawyers for the animal shelter until Sept. 6 to file documents in the case.
When lawyers for Noah's informed Judge Bannon of the conflicting rulings, he rescinded his order Tuesday.
"It looks like things are still status quo for now, but the clock does seem to be ticking rather quickly," said Atty. Kevin P. Murphy of Warren, who represents Noah's.
Ownership of Boomerang has been a bone of contention for months between Ellen and Doug Whitehouse, who own Noah's, and Long, a Columbus-area man who has been deemed by the courts to be the lion's rightful owner.
Long has said he bought the animal in October 2003 for a reporter from the New York Post who was doing a story about the sale of exotic animals. Long said the plan all along was to deliver the lion, which was then an 8-day-old cub, to an animal preserve in California.
But because the cub was too young to make the cross-country trip, Long and the reporter took him instead to Noah's Lost Ark on Bedell Road. Long said they intended for Boomerang to stay at Noah's only until he became strong enough to travel to California.
What happened next
The Whitehouses, though, have argued that the reporter, Al Guart, abandoned the cub with them and that Long is no longer the owner. They have refused to hand him over despite court orders to do so. They are pursuing an appeal in the Ohio Supreme Court.
The high court last week rejected a request from Noah's owners to keep Boomerang while they appeal lower court orders to give him up. Based on that Supreme Court ruling, Judge Bannon issued his order that Boomerang be handed over this week.
But he was not aware that on Aug. 13, an attorney for Long had filed a motion with Fehr asking that the court set a date for Noah's to hand over the lion. Fehr gave attorneys for Noah's until Sept. 6 to file a response. The lion is to remain in the county until then.