Steve Sipek was arrested in Loxahatchee, Florida when a search warrant revealed he had three unlicensed, big cats at his home: a leopard and two tigers. Steve Sipek is known as “Spanish Tarzan” in his acting career. Specificallt, Sipek was arrested for possession of a Class 1 animal as a pet and possession of a Class 1 animal without a USDA permit. If he hasn’t done so already, Sipek will likely post a bail bond and be released from custody. It is not known whether he has retained a private criminal defense attorney to represent him in this case.
The search and arrest came after a joint investigation involving the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
(FWC). Sipek has had several run-ins with the FWC in the past. He and his partner, Melanie Boynes, actually applied for USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) permits for the three large cats, buts the permits were revoked.
The three animals have been removed from Sipek and Byones’ facility in the 3300 block of C road in Loxahatchee. It is not immediately clear whether Boynes has also been apprehended, or what will happen to the animals. Information regarding the animals’ heath and living conditions has not been forthcoming.
“Mr. Sipek and Ms. Boynes were in violation of federal and state laws that are in place to keep both people and animals safe and healthy,” said Major Curtis Brown, leader of the FWC’s Captive Wildlife and Investigations Section, in a statement after the 9:49 a.m. arrest. “The FWC removed the animals to protect public safety and to place them in a licensed, healthy and safe facility.”
Major Brown also said that “the facility’s repeated failure to correct violations, including multiple bites and escapes, fencing and caging deficiencies, possession of Class I wildlife without proof of consistent and sustained commercial activity, possession of Class I wildlife without a U.S. Department of Agriculture permit and feeding animals an improper diet” resulted in the arrest warrant. “After previous inspections and correspondence, the couple has continuously failed to comply with FWC and USDA regulations, presenting safety concerns at the facility. Sipek has also told FWC investigators that nobody would ever take his animals, causing additional safety concerns,” Major Brown added.
Sipek made inadvertent headlines in 2004, when a 600-pound tiger named Bobo escaped from Sipek’s property. The search resulted in the tiger being shot by a wildlife officer five times. Bobo died at the scene.
Sipek, who credits a lion with saving him from an onset fire during the filming of one of his Tarzan productions, has owned several big cats, including a cougar named Missy and a lion named Elvis. Both died at age 22, a respectable age for large captive cats.
The tigers that officials took from Sipek’s compound this morning could have been 7-year-old Bo and Little Bo, which Sipek purchased in 2005 for $3,200. He reportedly let the two tigers sleep in his home. “When it’s cold like last night, they are very warm to cuddle up to,” he told local press before the arrest.
Large cat ownership is restricted on the basis that the animals can be very dangerous to humans. In order to receive a permit, owners must prove that they have significant experience caring for large cats and can meet enclosure and diet regulations.