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Sanctuaries jostle to secure 'Meatball' as permanent resident

September 10, 2012
(California Department…)

It’s become a battle of campaigns as two animal sanctuaries vie to be the permanent home of “Meatball,” the Glendale bear that was trapped and taken to a temporary enclosure two weeks ago.

One sanctuary in San Diego County launched a major fundraising effort Monday to try to keep the bear, while another in Colorado aims to flood officials with letters and calls from the public to get Meatball to the Rocky Mountain State.

Both sanctuaries believe they’re the better home.

“Meatball’s life is hanging in the balance,” said Katie Vandegrift, spokeswoman for The Wild Animal Sanctuary 30 miles outside of Denver.

After being sent deep into the Angeles National Forest twice after snacking on trash and swimming in pools in foothill neighborhoods, California wildlife officials trapped the bear, which was launched to stardom by a Twitter account created in his name.

The plan was to send the bear temporarily to Lions, Tigers & Bears in Alpine -- which doesn’t have space to let the bear roam in the open -- and then give him a permanent home at the larger Colorado sanctuary.  But a Colorado regulation prevents wild animals from living in sanctuaries.

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The Colorado sanctuary, which has housed wild animals in the past, now has launched an advocacy campaign to encourage state officials to lift or change the rule. Their website, homelessbear.org, features a cartoon bear crying behind bars.

Meatball is currently living in a 15-by-20-foot cage at Lions, Tigers & Bears.

California Department of Fish & Game officials told Colorado officials they don’t plan to send Meatball across the border and are instead looking at local options.

Lions, Tigers & Bears wants to keep the bear, also known by its Twitter profile as “Glen Bearian,” but it would need to raise tens of thousands of dollars to build an open-air facility. The sanctuary has the land, but not the money to build the habitat, which would ideally include a swimming pool.

The sanctuary doesn’t have an exact number of how much they’d have to raise for a new home for Meatball yet as they haven’t begun working with a contractor, said spokeswoman Jen Jenkins.

San Diego Gas & Electric has already agreed to donate several 26-foot poles for a fence that would border the habitat, Jenkins said.

Lions, Tigers & Bears already cares for four other bears at the site.

“The first step would be to get the walls up and get him out there,” she said.

-- Brittany Levine, Times Community News

Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ or Twitter: @brittanylevine

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