Belfast Telegraph

Wildlife keeper wins High Court battle with USPCA over eviction

By Alan Erwin

A wildlife keeper has won a High Court battle over being evicted from his Co Antrim sanctuary.

Norman Elder sued the USPCA after being forced to vacate the centre where a pet tiger was among the animals being looked after.

His action centred on a dispute over his right to remain on the site he rented at Benvarden, near Ballymoney.

It has now been conceded that he occupied the premises on an oral monthly tenancy which was not lawfully terminated by the USPCA.

A further hearing to determine the level of damages in the case will take place at a later date this year.

Mr Elder (51) hit the headlines in February 2008 when he was ordered to quit the site of his Wildlife NI animal hospital.

He ran the pound which also housed wolves, snakes, lizards and dangerous dogs with the backing of the USPCA.

But the charity intervened to have him evicted amid concerns about activities at the park.

Pictures appeared on a social networking site of a girl stroking a tiger in the sanctuary.

USPCA officers, police and the ambulance service all took part in Mr Elder's eviction from the site where he also lived at the time.

He issued legal proceedings over the entitlement to have him removed and the level of notification.

It has been accepted that his presence on the premises fell under the terms of the Business Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, which provides greater protection from immediate eviction that a licence arrangement.

An order approved by the parties confirmed it was for a term in excess of nine months.

It also stated that Mr Elder occupied the site in February 2008 on the basis of an oral monthly tenancy.

"The defendant did not lawfully terminate or forfeit the said tenancy," the order continued.

With Mr Elder awarded costs of the action so far, Mr Justice Deeny listed the case for a further review in May.

At that stage submissions will centre on the question of loss and damages sustained by the wildlife keeper.

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