LOCKPORT – So this guy walks into a bar with a tiger on a leash ...
It sounds like the setup to a joke, but police aren’t laughing after taking reports that John Basile has brought a Siberian Tiger to several bars recently.
Basile, 57, of the 14800 block of Farrell Road, operates the Big Run Wolf Ranch, a nonprofit, federally licensed ranch for large North American animals such as bears and wolves.
Basile recently acquired Shere Khan, a Siberian Tiger cub, who is expected to grow to be 6-and-a-half feet long and weigh 450 pounds.
At 7:33 p.m. Feb. 16, a police officer saw Basile walking the tiger on a leash down Ninth Street, said Chief Terry Lemming.
“After 32 years in law enforcement, I thought I had seen and heard everything,” Lemming said Tuesday. “Taking your tiger for a walk downtown on a wintry day.”
Officers spoke with Basile and convinced him to put the tiger in a cage. One source said Basile and Shere Khan had been inside Uncle Ritchie’s Bar on Ninth Street beforehand.
While it does not appear there is a city ordinance specifically against walking with a tiger, Lemming said tigers are considered dangerous animals.
But Basile has an animal exhibitor’s license and police were unsure if having that authority for a public event would allow him to walk it down the street, Lemming said. After police consulted with the Will County State’s Attorney’s office, Basile was charged Monday with two misdemeanors: reckless conduct and possession of a dangerous animal.
“While we were looking into possible charges, officers spoke with a woman who claimed the tiger bit her in Uncle Ritchie’s on Dec. 14, 2013,” Lemming said. Police reports do not indicate the woman sought medical treatment.
Another source said Basile has also had the animal in Rocco’s Pub.
“We are trying to be proactive and will be speaking with business owners,” Lemming said Tuesday. “Dangerous animals do not belong in liquor establishments.”
• This story has been edited since initial publication to correct that Mr. Basile has been charged with only two misdemeanors. The original story has listed three misdemeanor charges.