DILLON, Colo. (CBS4)– A reindeer is the focus of an animal rights group after it escaped from its handler during a visit to Dillon earlier this month.
The reindeer broke free from his owner, dressed as Santa, a couple of weeks ago. The animal was later captured by Summit County deputies and returned to Bob Lee, its owner.
“I’ve had reindeer for probably over 20 years,” said Lee.
Lee admits he didn’t have an operators license for all of those years but he has been licensed for the past several years to take reindeer all over Colorado.
Lee typically works as Santa and brings the reindeer with him for a few dozen events each holiday season, including the one in Dillon the first week in December.
That’s when the reindeer had a different idea.
“The reindeer went up and over the panels,” said Lee. “Usually they don’t jump very high not like mule deer or elk, the handler got excited and was upset that the reindeer got loose and they called 911 immediately.”
That reindeer was captured the next day and returned to Lee.
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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, has asked the government to not renew Lee’s license. They are also asking the Town of Dillon to never use any live animals in scheduled events ever again.
Here is a portion of that letter, “The holiday season is supposed to be about joy and peace, not causing a frightened animal to flee in terror.”
“I know what the PETA agenda is,” said Lee. “I would probably not go to Dillon again and I’d use my own panels that are a little higher than the ones they provide.”
Lee said he will not give up his animals or stop scheduling them to visit towns across Colorado.
“That’s what we want to try to do is let people learn about livestock. Let people learn about what they’re used for,” said Lee.
Lee has had a few incidents with animal control investigators. In 2012 he had nearly 100 animals seized.
In a settlement this year he pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty but was paid back thousands of dollars by Clear Creek County for animals seized that the county could not return to him.