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Owner of animal sanctuary skips out on Facebook appearance

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The owner of a wild animal sanctuary in Elbert County came under heavy criticism last month for euthanizing nearly a dozen wild animals.

Those deaths launched federal and local investigations. And Wednesday, for the first time, Joan Laub was scheduled to give her side of the story.

But she failed to show up for a Facebook Live show on "The Animal View." It's hosted by The Animal Law Center in Englewood.

"She's had some death threats and feared for her safety," attorney Jennifer Edwards said.

Laub, co-owner of Lion's Gate Sanctuary, canceled her appearance. Instead, she had a host read a prepared statement.

“I learned this weekend I am the subject of an investigation and as such I've been advised not speak to anyone until it's completed," animal behaviorist Deb Nabb read.

“I can say these animals were loved. We honored and cared for 40-plus animals every single day for 10 years. We are completely and profoundly grief-stricken.”

For a decade, the sanctuary served as a home for the 11 animals -- three lions, three tigers and five bears.

But on April 20, Laub and her partner, Peter Winney, made what some call a heartless decision to euthanize them.

"There had to have been another solution than that. That seems so barbaric and cold," a sanctuary neighbor said on April 26.

But Laub claims the decision was humane because of dangerous flooding on the land that posed safety risks to the animals and neighbors.

Their plan was to move them to a new property. But when county commissioners rejected that eight days earlier, they said they were forced to do the unthinkable.

"We have to remember, we have not walked in her shoes. She cared for these animals for 10 years, without one negative mark on her reputation," Nabb said.

Facebook viewers asked why Laub didn't relocate them to a sanctuary that offered to take them in.

"To know those animals lives were taken needlessly, is hard to take," Kent Drotar of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg said earlier this month.

The hosts said it wouldn't have worked because the animals had lived in quiet isolation in Elbert County -- not in a public environment like that in Keenesburg. Plus, they said some were old and sick.

"You see nature, (they) might have been killed by other members of their own species," Edwards said.

Laub said she'll return to the show when the investigations are complete. The investigation focus on possible violations of the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife hopes to have its investigation wrapped up this week. Then, it will turn its findings over to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which will make any decisions about whether to file charges.

The Elbert County Sheriff's Office is also still investigating the case .