PHOENIX — A Hollywood trainer of lions and other exotic animals says he plans to open a satellite operation outside of Phoenix to serve as a home base for his Oregon filming and as an education center.
Lions, giraffes, zebras and a host of African antelope could be living a year from now in new facilities that trainer Brian McMillan plans for his property along Houston Road adjacent to Phoenix city limits.
McMillan and his wife, Victoria, in August bought a 41-acre parcel of farmland and are now renovating the century-old farmhouse on the property — the first phase of his planned operation.
"It's going to be a year or so from now," McMillan said in a Tuesday interview from his current operation in Canyon Country, Calif. "Right now we're just trying to get our house built."
McMillan has been an animal trainer for more than 30 years, according to his website. His credits include television shows such as "CSI-NY" and "Monk" and films such as "Into the Wild," as well as an array of talk shows and television commercials.
McMillan said his "Hollywood Animals" and "Walking with Lions" operations already does filming in Oregon, primarily in the Portland area, and he wants to expand that work in Oregon and Northern California.
The couple settled on the Phoenix property as a base for filming here because they prefer the climate and the community, he said, but that they plan to keep his Southern California operation as well.
Eventually, he plans to add pens and other facilities on the property before shipping seven lions, three giraffes, three zebras, two camels, two ostriches and six antelope north, according to his county planning application.
"It's a nice, big, beautiful piece of property with lots of space," he said. "And we've always liked Oregon."
Before purchasing the land, which is zoned exclusively for farm use, McMillan asked the Jackson County Planning Department whether these exotic animals would fall under the land-use definition of "farm use."
The lions fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and would need a permit from that agency to be housed on the property, said Bruce Pokarney, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture.
The ostriches and camels already are exempt from wildlife laws because they are considered domesticated animals, said Rick Boatner, who handles exotic species issues for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The giraffes, zebras and the antelopes — kudus, blackbucks and impalas — are listed by the ODFW as "non-controlled animals" that can be kept, bred or sold here under limited restrictions, Boatner said.
There are not even fencing requirements such as those for keeping bears or cougars, Boatner said.
"Just humane conditions, that's it," he said. "But if they escape, you have some different rules to deal with."
Under state statutes, any escaped exotics must be reported to the ODFW within 24 hours, and the owners have 48 hours to capture them, Boatner said. After that, any police officer or ODFW biologist can capture, seize or kill the escaped animal, he said.
"They can do whatever they think is best," Boatner said.
All the animals must get an ODA health certificate before they can enter Oregon, Boatner said.
"It's very rare, outside of zoos, to bring these animals in," he said.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.