JOLIET – A Lockport man pleaded not guilty Friday to endangering the public by bringing a tiger to a Lockport bar.
John Basile appeared briefly with attorney Jennifer Kearney before Judge Ray Nash to be arraigned on charges of possession of a dangerous animal, a Class C misdemeanor, and reckless conduct, a Class A misdemeanor. Kearney said the case has been set for a jury trial July 21.
Basile operates the Big Run Wolf Ranch and has an animal exhibitor’s license that allows him to own “dangerous” animals. He acknowledged bringing Shere Khan into Uncle Richie’s on Feb. 16, but maintains he was promoting his business, not behaving recklessly.
Shere Khan is now an 8-month-old Siberian tiger cub.
“He’s doing spectacular. He now weighs 110 pounds,” Basile said Friday. Basile said visits to the ranch, which also displays wolves and a bear, have increased since Khan’s arrival.
“We had an event with 1,600 people last weekend and all of them wanted to see the tiger,” Basile said. He has sold out of the new tiger T-shirts that were available at the ranch.
“Everyone has been very supportive [during the case] and can see we’re taking care of these animals,” Basile said.
Basile said he has not been contacted by the federal government regarding his licensing since the tiger charges were announced and does not expect to.
Basile was promoting a February “Wildfest” event at the ranch and said two handlers were with him when he brought the animal to the bar. He was walking the tiger on a leash to another bar when a passing Lockport police officer noticed the commotion from passing drivers.
If found guilty of both counts, Basile could face up to a year in jail and $4,000 in fines, but probation would be more likely for a first-time offender.
Basile said Shere Khan weighed about 40 pounds in February and is expected to reach about 700 pounds when he is full grown.