The house next door can bring down your own home's value in all kinds of ways. If it's foreclosed-on and sitting vacant, falling into disrepair and attracting blight, that'll definitely do it. But that's not the issue homeowners on a quiet cul-de-sac in Mayfield, N.Y., are citing as a reason that their homes' values may be plummeting. They're pointing the finger at their neighbor, Steve Salton -- who has tigers and leopards as pets at his home.
Salton (pictured at left) keeps three tigers and two leopards in his backyard, where he has created an "escape-proof" sanctuary for the animals with high fences, the Times Union newspaper in Albany reported. Neighbors say that tigers and leopards have no place in a residential neighborhood, and the animals are scaring off prospective homebuyers, making nearby properties suffer value depreciation. One 3,500-square-foot home on the block had been listed for more than $400,000, but it has remained vacant with no buyers for years, the Times Union said. It suggests that the animals could be affecting the sale of the home.
Salton said that he keeps the large cats because he's passionate about caring for endangered species. "This is a 24-7 job," Salton, who has lived at his home since 1994, told the Times Union. He began taking in the cats in 2007. "I made a commitment, and I won't back away from it." The cats often roam freely within an animal enclosure in Salton's backyard, but there are large cages they can be kept in from time to time. "These animals shouldn't be caged," he added.
However, neighbor Richard Travis, who moved to Salton's neighborhood in 2006 -- a year before Salton began housing his animals -- said that his friends won't come within throwing distance of his home because they're afraid of the animals in Salton's nearby yard. He now worries that the animals are dragging down the value of his home. "I bought what I think is a beautiful house, and I'm on a street where there should be other homes of this character," Travis told the Times Union. "But there can't be because of what is there. ... Would you live here?"
Salton has permits from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to house the tigers and leopards on his property. The departments inspect his property several times a year to ensure compliance of the permits. Part of the deal is to make the animals available for public viewing.
But the town of Mayfield is attempting to have the animals evicted from the neighborhood after receiving complaints from neighbors, including Travis, the Times Union reported. Mayfield doesn't have laws on the books specifically banning exotic animals from residential areas, but town officials have decided Salton needs a local permit to keep the animals at his home -- and they won't grant him one. The developer of Salton's subdivision has filed a lawsuit against him, claiming his animals are preventing home sales in the area.
CLARIFICATION: Steve Salton began acquiring his cats in 2007, a year after neighbor Richard Travis bought his home.
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