Benvarden wildlife keeper settles USPCA eviction case

Norman Elder was first ordered to quit the Benvarden site in February 2008
Norman Elder was first ordered to quit the Benvarden site in February 2008

A wildlife keeper evicted from a Co Antrim sanctuary has settled his legal action against the USPCA, it has been confirmed.

Norman Elder sued the charity after being forced to vacate the centre where a pet tiger was among the animals being looked after.

His action centred on a dispute over his right to remain on the site he rented at Benvarden, near Ballymoney.

Last year it was conceded that he occupied the premises on an oral monthly tenancy which was not lawfully terminated by the USPCA.

A further hearing was then to be held to determine the level of damages in the case.

But at the High Court in Belfast it was announced that a confidential resolution has been reached.

Mr Elder, 52, hit the headlines back in February 2008 when he was ordered to quit the site of his Wildlife NI animal hospital.

He ran the pound, which also housed wolves, snakes, lizards and dangerous dogs, with the backing of the USPCA.

The charity intervened to have him evicted amid concerns about activities at the park.

Pictures appeared on a social networking site of a girl stroking a tiger in the sanctuary.

USPCA officers, police and the ambulance service all took part in Mr Elder’s eviction from the site where he also lived at the time.

He issued legal proceedings over the entitlement to have him removed and the level of notification.

In March last year it was accepted that his presence on the premises fell under the terms of the Business Tenancies (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, which provides greater protection from immediate eviction than a licence arrangement.

An order approved by the parties at that stage confirmed it was for a term in excess of nine months.

It also set out that Mr Elder occupied the site in February 2008 on the basis of an oral monthly tenancy.

“The defendant did not lawfully terminate or forfeit the said tenancy,” the order stated.

Further legal arguments were expected to centre on the question of loss and damages sustained by the wildlife keeper.

The case was due to be heard on Tuesday by High Court judge Mr Justice Horner.

However, it was instead confirmed that a confidential settlement has been reached.