Steve Salton’s exotic cat case was adjourned Wednesday because he is now seeking a jury trial.
Mayfield Town Attorney Carmel Greco said Salton, who keeps three tigers and two leopards on his Route 30 property, is within his rights to seek a jury trial because the charges against him are all misdemeanors.
Salton faces charges of operating a home business without a permit and failure to comply with a cease-and-desist order.
“He is well within his rights to request a jury,” Greco said. “We will be ready on May 7 to go to trial.”
Salton’s attorney, James Doyle, said his client feels a jury may be more favorable than a judge.
“A lot of people have animals, and you can never tell how people may feel about animals,” he said.
The saga between Salton and the town of Mayfield began in 2011, when the town code enforcement officer told him he was operating a business in a residentially zoned area.
Salton has kept exotic animals on his 11-acre property since 2005, when he purchased a Siberian tiger cub from a private breeder. He is licensed to own the animals by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The licenses require he exhibit the animals for educational purposes, as opposed to keeping them as pets, so Salton shows the animals by appointment.
Salton has refused to remove the animals, even after the town Zoning Board of Appeals issued several cease-and-desist orders that forced the town to pursue a case against him.
Salton applied for a stay of the town’s latest order, but state Supreme Court Judge Richard Aulisi on Oct. 7 rejected the application, saying there wasn’t a satisfactory reason to support the request.
Greco said an order by a town can be enforced by a town police force, but Mayfield doesn’t have its own police force, so all it can do is wait for Salton to remove the animals voluntarily, which he won’t do.
In order for the town to enforce his compliance with the cease-and-desist order, Salton must be tried and convicted in Town Court. Because the order is based on a local zoning ordinance, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and state police have no jurisdiction until the court agrees to enforce the order.
Greco said Salton could face a fine of up to $350 or six months in jail if found guilty. The animals will remain on Salton’s property at least until the May 7 court date.