BIG CAT PUBLIC SAFETY ACT
Thousands of big cats are kept as pets or maintained in ill-equipped roadside zoos in the U.S. Kate Dylewsky, Program Associate at Born Free USA, talks with Big Blend Radio about the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 1818), that was recently introduced by U.S. Representatives Jeff Denham (R-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Niki Tsongas (D-MA). The bill would advance animal welfare and protect public safety by prohibiting possession and breeding of tigers, lions, leopards and other big cat species by private individuals and unqualified exhibitors.
This bill would strengthen the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, the existing federal law passed unanimously in 2003, by closing the loopholes that allow private possession of big cats by unqualified individuals. Existing owners that do not qualify for an exemption may keep the big cats they currently possess so long as they notify the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The bill provides for reasonable exemptions for wildlife sanctuaries and exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture that meet basic standards intended to protect the public and the animals.
According to Kate Dylewsky, program associate at Born Free USA, “This common sense and narrowly-crafted bill is an urgently-needed solution to the problem of big cats kept in unsafe and abusive situations around the country. Thousands of big cats are currently owned as pets or maintained in ill-equipped roadside zoos. These poorly regulated facilities — with animals kept in basements, cement pits, or in backyards — pose a severe risk to the safety of people in surrounding communities, as well as the welfare of the cats themselves.”
– There have been more than 700 dangerous incidents in the U.S. involving tigers, lions, and cougars, including hundreds of human injuries, maulings and deaths. In many cases, the animals were shot and killed, often by first responders who are not trained to deal with these situations. The most dramatic example was an October 2011 incident in Zanesville, Ohio, in which a private exotic animal owner released 38 big cats near a populated area, requiring law enforcement to kill the cats — and risk their own lives — for the sake of public safety.
– Big cats are wild animals and suffer when kept as pets. They are often purchased as babies, and private owners typically are not able to manage them once they’re fully grown. Consequently, the animals are frequently left to languish in grossly substandard conditions and often deprived of sufficient space, adequate veterinary care, a nutritious diet and enrichment.
– It is standard procedure for some roadside zoos to separate babies from their mothers so they can charge the public to pet and play with the cubs. This is an inhumane and unhealthy practice that can cause lifelong physical and psychological problems — or even death — for the cubs. Young cats, who very quickly outgrow their usefulness in the cub handling industry, end up warehoused at substandard “zoos,” sold into the exotic pet trade or possibly even killed and sold for parts — all while a vicious cycle of constant breeding churns out more babies to be exploited.
Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. See www.BornFreeUSA.org