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No Welcome Mat for Tanya

There goes the neighborhood.

That's what some residents of Weare, N.H., are thinking now that Tanya has moved in.

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A case of pachyderm prejudice?

It wasn't enough that Al and Sandra Jones shared their rural home with Lisa, a 300-pound lioness. About three weeks ago, Tanya, an adult African elephant joined the Joneses on their 100-acre spread.

Of course, Tanya didn't help her cause much. Used to zoo living, she was restless on her first night in the New Hampshire woods and decided to practice her Louis Armstrong imitation. From 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

It's one thing when a yapping dog rousts the neighborhood. But even Marlin Perkins might be unnerved by a trumpeting elephant at that hour.

Word spread that Tanya might be joined by the odd buffalo or llama; the Joneses plan to have a wild animal farm. That's when the exotic animal dung really hit the fan.

"It's a great idea. But not here," says Bob Cox, a neighbor. "If Al Jones wants a zoological park, he can put it on commercial property. There's plenty of it in town," says Mr. Cox, who is part of a group of 33 families organized to fight the zoo.

This isn't the first such neighborhood dispute. Nor is it the last, given the popularity of nonnative pets. (What is it with pythons? There are more news reports lately of escaped pet pythons than convicts.)

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A similar debate erupted in February among the residents of Fannin County, Ga., when a wealthy couple bought some land and proposed a private sanctuary for unwanted and aging zoo gorillas. Some locals were concerned about safety, property values, and pollution. Eventually, the primate haven was approved.

Clearly, an exotic animal moving into the neighborhood raises a host of niggling questions.

For example, when does your right to keep a critter on your land infringe on the rights of others? Is there a size or a species limit? Who decides which pets are welcome?

In Weare, the law says livestock is not allowed on residential property for commercial purposes. So family cows, horses, and poultry are OK.

But does a 5,000-pound elephant count as livestock? Is it a pet? The town's attorney expects to have a legal definition this week.

Would you want a wild-animal park next door? What about a small one, out of view, out of odor range, dedicated to education and saving endangered species?

"Most people moved here for peace and tranquility," says Cox. "We live on a beautiful pond that can truly be described as pristine. Some of the seasonal homes draw drinking water from it. What would be the impact of 100 animals on that pond?"

Mr. Jones agrees some of the concerns are legitimate. He'd like to discuss them. Others, he says, are "fairly unreasonable."

"We want to do what we can to save these critters, to share them with people," he says. Jones quietly adds that if the land can't be used for animals, it can be sold for houses. "There would be less year-round traffic from a farm than a development."

Would Jones have met with less opposition if he'd consulted with his neighbors beforehand? Perhaps. But how would you bring up something like that? "Say, Bob, do your kids like large pets? I was, ah, just wondering. Well, see ya. Oh. By the way, did I mention we're thinking about getting an elephant? And a buffalo. Or two. Possibly a tiger. Or some llama."

Cox says it wouldn't have made a difference. Frankly, he adds, Jones doesn't have to consult with his neighbors as long as he follows zoning laws. Jones says he's following his lawyer's advice, going slow. "We can be patient," he says.

* We're home. Let us know how we're doing. Write to the Homefront Editor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

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