All jobs have their routine, sometimes boring, tasks. Even judges often have to decipher complex statutes and slog through tedious contract disputes. But every once in a while they get a distinctly out-of-the-ordinary case – such as the woman with five tigers.

Irena Hauser wanted to keep the tigers on her 19-acre Ventura County property, not far from the City of Malibu. She applied to the county planning commission for a conditional use permit, or CUP, which was denied.

Ms. Hauser sued, asking the trial court to order the County Board of Supervisors to issue the CUP. She lost, and took her case to the California Court of Appeal (Irena Hauser v. Ventura County Board of Supervisors.)

Tigers are hardly ordinary pets, and Ms. Hauser was contemplating much more than a feline version of a doghouse. The project she envisioned would include three tiger enclosures and a 13,500 square-foot arena, on seven acres surrounded by an eight-foot-high fence.

She planned to make the tigers available for movies, commercials and photo shoots, trucking them off the property and back about 60 times a year.

Her proposal to add five jungle cats to the neighborhood was not welcomed by nearby residents, who presented a petition with some 11,000 signatures in opposition to the CUP.

The opponents pointed out that there were 48 homes within a mile of Hauser’s property, and two summer camps for children in the area.

Their concern was not unreasonable. A tiger, which can weigh up to 500 pounds, can kill a rhino or young elephant. It can run at 35 miles per hour, easily outsprinting Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man. A tiger in the wild may roam a territory twice the size of Ventura County.

The appellate justices wrote that the case brought to mind William Blake’s 1794 poem which concludes, “Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright in the forests of the night, what immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry!”

But that 18th century literary masterpiece didn’t incline them to rule in favor of the owner of the 21st century tigers.

Hauser had argued that the tigers would be well-supervised, because she, her husband, sister or children would be on the property at all times, and she and her sister had taken a course on animal training and safety.

The justices noted that the eight-day training course Ms. Hauser and her sister took required no reading or written exam, and that everyone who enrolled received a certificate of completion. In addition, her “safety plan” included leaving the tigers at times under the supervision of family members who had not even taken that training.

They were not persuaded by Hauser’s arguments that she had an unblemished safety record, and that a captive-born tiger posed almost no risk to the public if it did escape.

The justices said her safety practices were questionable, because the trial court had been shown video of Hauser with her tigers uncaged in the back yard of her Beverly Hills home, and photos of her with them uncaged on a beach.

As for her claim that her animals would pose no risk to the public, the justices noted that the highly experienced animal trainer Roy Horn, of the Las Vegas entertainment act Siegfried & Roy, was mauled severely in 2003 by a tiger that had previously performed on stage hundreds of times without incident.

Their ruling also cited a tiger’s 2007 escape from its San Francisco Zoo enclosure. The cat crossed a 20-foot moat and leaped up a wall more than 12 feet high – half again higher than the fence Hauser proposed . It killed one teenager and attacked two others, stalking them for 300 yards before it was shot to death.

The justices noted that the rugged terrain and dense brush around Hauser’s property would make it very difficult to recapture an escaped tiger, even if it was wearing a GPS-equipped collar.

Hauser said the Board of Supervisors unfairly denied the CUP when it decided that, no matter how safe she claimed her facility would be, the possibility of human error could never be eliminated.

“Hauser argues ‘Impossibilium nulla obligatio est,’ that is, there can be no obligation to do the impossible,” the justices said. But, they added, “We are more impressed by the Latin than by the argument.”

They explained that “her argument amounts to nothing more than that, because it is impossible to avoid human error, Hauser’s neighbors must bear the risk. Applying Hauser’s logic, there is no limit to the risky ventures that could be imposed on a residential neighborhood.”

Hauser’s desire to keep tigers on her property “does not trump her neighbors’ right to safety and peace of mind,” they said.

They affirmed the lower court’s decision to uphold the denial of the CUP, and awarded the county its costs to appeal.

Their ruling should allow Hauser’s Ventura County neighbors sleep better at night. The reaction of her Beverly Hills neighbors, possibly learning for the first time that Hauser sometimes keeps tigers in her back yard there, could be different.

By Laurie Murphy