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ANIMAL CUSTODY Boomerang finally returning to owner



Published: Wed, January 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The lion is headed West, the owner's lawyer said.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Boomerang the lion is finally going to his owner, William Long, ending a custody fight that dates back to 2003.

Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court ruled Tuesday that the owners of Noah's Lost Ark animal sanctuary on Bedell Road in Berlin Center must turn over the lion by Jan. 17.

Further, the court ordered Long to comply with state and federal regulations regarding the transportation of lions, and to submit proof that he is in compliance with those regulations by Jan. 14.

Ellen Whitehouse, one of the animal sanctuary's owners, said she was disappointed in the ruling.

Whitehouse said Boomerang is alive today only because of the care he received at Noah's Lost Ark and from the shelter's veterinarians.

Attorney happy

J. Jeffrey Holland, Long's lawyer, said he pleased there is finally an end date to the situation.

"Unfortunately, the lesson learned here is that if you take someone's personal property, you can hold onto it for a long time," Holland said.

He said that a visiting judge in common pleas court ruled in May that the lion belonged to his client and the 7th District Court of Appeals upheld that decision in August.

The Ohio Supreme Court announced last month that it would not accept the case for review.

The lion, however, still wasn't ordered to be released to his client's custody until Judge Sweeney's decision Tuesday, he added.

Boomerang has been kept at the animal sanctuary since Oct. 12, 2003.

Was he abandoned?

Owners of Noah's maintained that the animal was abandoned with them, and that Long, who lives in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington, no longer is the owner. They had refused to hand the lion over to Long.

Long has said he wants to send the lion to California, and Holland said that will be done.

Whitehouse said she is still concerned about whether the lion will ever go West, adding that under Ohio law, Long can keep the animal as a private pet.

Long has said he bought the lion -- who was then an 8-day-old cub -- on behalf of a reporter for the New York Post, which was doing a story on the sale of exotic animals.

Long intended for the lion to be taken to Shambala, an animal sanctuary in California operated by actress Tippi Hedren. But fearing the animal was too young to make the trip to the West Coast, Long took Boomerang instead to Noah's, intending for him to stay there only until he was strong enough to be moved.

Both sides have claimed damages in the long court battle, and Judge Sweeney has yet to set a trial date on that matter.




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