What Happened » Timeline
Ten tigers were seized from the Tiger Rescue facility in Colton, and Weinhart was cited for various misdemeanors.
April 22, 2003:
Weinhart's home in Glen Avon was raided and authorities seized thirteen young tigers from the property. Animal control seized two alligators found in the bathtub of the residence. Additionally, dozens of decaying and skeletal big cat remains were found all over the grounds, and 58 dead tiger cubs were found in the freezer. Tiger Rescue was closed to the public after the April 22 raid and remains closed.
May 22, 2003:
Chuck Traisi of the Fund for Animals took over the care of the animals at the Colton facility under the authority of the USDA and California Fish and Game.
July 9, 2003:
Weinhart's preliminary court hearing.
July 10, 2003:
Weinhart's preliminary court hearing (cont.) A Temporary Restraining Order hearing was also scheduled, where Weinhart's lawyer was attempting to get a temporary restraining order on the CA Fish and Game people (including volunteers). This attempt was unsuccessful, as Weinhart's lawyer was not prepared and had not filed any of the necessary paperwork. In the pre-trial hearing, a veterinary professor testified that at least four cubs found in a freezer at Weinhart's Glen Avon property starved to death.
Read more about the pre-trial hearing at The Press-Enterprise website.
July 11, 2003:
The pre-trial hearing for Weinhart is over - all 63 counts are standing and will be prosecuted, with not a single charge being dropped.
Read more at The Press-Enterprise website.
July 21, 2003:
Today was the last day of Weinhart's available time to comply with the requirement of removing the cats from the state of California, and was also the date of another hearing to determine whether or not a temporary restraining order would be granted to prohibit the state from moving the cats.
San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Tara Reilly denied the temporary restraining order, allowing the state to begin moving the cats to permanent sanctuary homes as soon as transport can be arranged.
Read more about the ruling at The Press-Enterprise website or on the Where We Stand page.
July 29, 2003
Eleven leopards and both African lions were loaded for the trip to their new permanent sanctuary homes. Because of extremely poor health and old age, four veterinarians who were on the premises were in agreement that one of the leopards should be euthanized. She died peacefully with a volunteer by her side, comforting her.
Read more at the Press-Enterprise
Read more at the Mercury News
July 31, 2003
The cougar began the 22 hour trip to his new home at the Austin Zoo. The Austin Zoo is an excellent zoo with a top-notch facility and veterinary care.
November 7, 2003
Weinhart's trial was scheduled to begin in Department 51 on Nov 24, and was a postponement of the original date scheduled for September 22. This trial has been postponed once again until Jan 12, 2004.
February 23, 2004
The jury trial has been posponed yet again, and has been rescheduled for February 23, 2004.
April 19, 2004
The jury trial has been posponed again, and has been rescheduled for April 19, 2004. The court is located at 4100 Main St. in Riverside.
April 26, 2004
Hearing on Motion Re: Media Req to Record/Broadcast (8:30a.m - Dept. 62) See court documentation.
August 9, 2004
The trial has been postponed 9 times now, and is currently rescheduled for September 2 , 2004.
The trial has been postponed again, and is currently rescheduled for Jan 5, 2005.
The case in Glen Avon is currently underway. Check here or Pet-Abuse.Com for updates.
Feb 22, 2005 - CONVICTED
A Riverside County jury convicted John Weinhart of child endangerment and animal cruelty charges today for keeping malnourished tigers and decomposing carcasses at his facility, and tranquilizers and live alligators within reach of his young son. He will be sentenced on March 22, 2005. Marla Smith will be sentenced March 10.
Mar 12, 2005
Marla Smith, 49, of Riverside had pleaded guilty in a Jan. 25 plea bargain to one felony count of willful cruelty to a child, 16 felony counts of animal cruelty and 46 misdemeanor violations involving the care of animals. The deal with prosecutors called for 120 days in jail.
But Superior Court Judge Ronald Taylor decided Thursday that the defendant deserved more jail time, after considering court testimony from Smith's 10-year-old son and reviewing a probation report. The judge told Smith she could withdraw her plea and go to trial.
"She wishes to proceed with the 180 days," Smith attorney Regina Filippone said.
The judge said the jail time could be served on weekends, and he also placed her on four years' probation. "I don't think it would be in (the child's) best interest to have Smith imprisoned for a significant amount of time. Counseling is the remedy here to help her improve her parenting skills," Taylor said.
June 20, 2005 - Sentencing
John Weinhart, who was recently convicted on 56 felonies of child and animal abuse, will be back in court on Monday, June 20, 2005, at 8:30am. Tippi Hedren, who testified against him in his trial, will be there. We are urging everyone to write letters to ensure that he serves time in prison for the heinous crimes he has committed against the tigers who were in his care. Write to:
Judge Ronald Taylor
Riverside Criminal Courts Department
Hall of Justice
4100 Main Street
Riverside, California 92501
July 19, 2005 - Sentenced
John Weinhart was sentenced to two years in county jail and five years of probation. He will receive credit for 204 days already served. Judge Ronald L. Taylor ordered that Weinhart not own, possess, care for or volunteer in a place with animals, and that he stay 50 yards away from exotic cats for the duration of his probation. He is also to receive psychological counseling and attend anger management and parenting classes.