RACINE (AP) -- A white Siberian tiger that bit a 7-year-old girl was destroyed Friday so it could be tested for rabies after the state Court of Appeals for the second time rejected a request for a reprieve.
The court ruled against the 2-year-old tiger's owners Thursday. They filed another appeal Friday morning, seeking to have action delayed pending submission of additional evidence, but the appeals court denied that request.
Como the tiger broke out its cage at a private wild animal park last Sunday and bit Emily Hartman, of Rochester, who was with her mother in a building not usually open to the public. She was released from a hospital Wednesday.
State law requires that when an animal other than a vaccinated dog or house cat bites a person, its brain must be examined for rabies or the victim must get rabies shots.
Results of the tiger's biopsy were expected to be released Saturday, according to the Minnesota Health Department.
"We recognize that the odds were against the tiger being infected," said Dr. Harry Hull, state epidemiologist. "However, this is a situation where the girl's life could literally be at stake. We couldn't afford to take any chances."
While modern rabies shots are described as fewer and less painful than they were several years ago, Emily's parents, Tom and Mary Hartman, told officials she had had negative reactions to vaccinations before and refused to allow the shots.
On Wednesday, Mower County District Judge Fred Wellmann ruled that the law, as written, gave him no choice but to order Como's death. He stayed his order until 9 a.m. Friday to allow for appeals.
Soon after noon Friday, B.E.A.R.C.A.T. Hollow curator Christine Chandler came out and told a group of supporters and reporters, "Como's gone."
Mower County Sheriff Barry Simonson was present to ensure the court's orders were carried out.
"I think everybody here feels if there was other way to do this (besides destroying the tiger), we'd do it some other way," the sheriff said.
It was an emotional time for staff members, many of whom were crying as they awaited word of the tiger's fate. Some of the supporters who gathered around Como's cage were also crying and upset, including Amy Rinken, 31, of Stewartville.
"I just think this is so unfortunate," Rinken said. "This cat is such a rare thing of beauty. I think there's a more humane way we could take care of this little girl."
In a statement Friday, the Hartman family pointed out that the rabies vaccine has a risk of side effects.
"The side effects include reactions severe enough to result in death," the statement said. "Although the risk of severe reaction is small, why should we subject our daughter to that risk?"
On his weekly radio show, a caller to Gov. Jesse Ventura asked about the tiger's fate. "The way the laws are written, I can only pardon people," Ventura replied.
Ken Craft, who owns the shelter, rejected the governor's explanation.
"This is a bunch of baloney," Craft said. "I think it's time people who make these laws understand that. ... We do not want people to think we put this cat ahead of the little girl, but I think we could have had both."
Chandler said she wanted authorities to take whatever tissue they needed for their tests and then leave Como so the tiger could be stuffed.
"This tiger will be mounted," she said. "That's something I'm normally not in favor of, but in this case I want everyone who comes in to be reminded of what happened."
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