On May 15, 2013, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced H.R. 1998, to prohibit the private possession and breeding of big cats. On July 30, 2013 Senator Blumenthal introduced the companion, Senate bill. The bill will insure that lions, tigers and other dangerous big cats – which are kept as pets and exploited in roadside zoos and traveling exhibits – do not threaten public safety, diminish the global big cat conservation efforts, or end up living in deplorable conditions where they can be subject to mistreatment and cruelty.
The debate over private ownership of big cats garnered national attention in October 2011 when the owner of a backyard menagerie in Zanesville, Ohio, opened the cages of his tigers, leopards, lions, wolves, bears and monkeys before committing suicide. Local police, who were neither trained nor properly equipped to deal with a situation of that magnitude, were forced to shoot and kill nearly 50 animals—38 of them big cats—before they could enter populated areas.The bill would make it illegal to possess any big cat except at accredited zoos and wildlife sanctuaries where they can be properly cared for and sheltered, and would only allow breeding at accredited zoos, along with some research or educational institutions.
Current owners would be allowed to keep the cats they currently have provided they register their cats with USDA but they would not be allowed to acquire or breed more. This "grandfather" clause is necessary because there is no place for the animals to go if owners were forced to give them up, and the prospect of confiscation might create an incentive to kill animals and illegally sell their parts. Violators of the law could have their animals confiscated along with any vehicles or equipment used to aid in their activity, and could face stiff penalties including fines up to $20,000 and up to five years in jail.
It is estimated that there are 10,000 to 20,000 big cats currently held in private ownership in the U.S., although the exact number remains a mystery. In the past 21 years, U.S. incidents involving captive big cats—including tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs and lion/tiger hybrids—have resulted in the deaths of 22 humans, 248 maulings, 260 escapes, 144 big cats deaths and 141 confiscations.
Illegal trade in big cat parts and impact on conservation in the wild.
Despite the claims of breeders who profit from selling these animals, the rampant breeding of big cats in private hands to exploit in exhibits or inappropriately keep as pets does absolutely nothing to further conservation in the wild. In fact, the opposite is true. In the case of tigers, of the estimated 5000 in this country, only about 250 are pure bred subspecies and those are housed in AZA accredited zoos. All of the rest are “generic,” i.e. cross bred between two or more subspecies, and have no conservation value whatsoever. Undercover operations by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service over the last decade and as recently as January 2012 have demonstrated that there is an illegal trade in big cat parts, including skins and bones. According to the International Tiger Coalition, the more these parts are supplied from the captive big cat population, the more the market for these parts grows, and the more demand grows for the “real” or premium product, i.e. parts from big cats poached from the wild.
Deplorable conditions are the rule, not the exception.
In the case of big cats owned as pets, i.e. not exhibited to the public, there is no federal regulation governing how they are kept. State laws vary from no restrictions, to simply requiring registration, to some states banning ownership as pets. But, the bans are often ineffective because the states that ban ownership as pets often do so by exempting those who hold USDA licenses as commercial exhibitors. According to a 2010 audit of USDA by OIG, 70% of private owners with four or less cats were actually pet owners simply using USDA registration to evade the state law. So, individuals buy cute cubs that grow up to be dangerous, unmanageable and expensive to feed. They end up in tiny, barren cages in back yards, abandoned to sanctuaries that are struggling financially to support the steady flow of unwanted cats, or in the illegal trade for their parts.
Cats owned by exhibitors do fall under the regulations promulgated by USDA under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), but they fare no better. The USDA sets minimum standards that allow these cats to spend their entire lives in small, concrete and chain link cages that in effect are prison cells. And even these minimal standards are totally impractical to enforce. USDA has about 100 inspectors to police over 2700 exotic animal exhibitors and thousands of other animal facilities.
Horrible facilities are cited year after year and only a few of the very worst are ever shut down.
As a result, the vast majority of big cats live in conditions that any compassionate person would view as cruel and inhumane. This bill would avert unnecessary human suffering from deaths and injuries from these inherently dangerous animals, stop the illegal trade in captive animal parts that encourages poaching of the wild population, and end the widespread misery these majestic animals endure in private hands when exploited for exhibition or inappropriately kept as pets.
This bill is supported by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Big Cat Rescue, Born Free USA, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS, Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF), ROAR Foundation and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
If you received this by email and the Take Action link doesn't work, please paste this URL into your browser bar to get to the online form: https://www.votervoice.net/BCR/Campaigns/30111/Respond[-] less
A recent report on three of Maryland's roadside zoos-Catoctin Zoo, Plumpton Park Zoo, and Tri-State Zoo-uncovered serious animal welfare and public safety concerns. Now, Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation (SB 827/HB 1124) to address those concerns by prohibiting unaccredited roadside zoos from keeping especially dangerous wild animals.
Maryland generally prohibits the private possession of certain dangerous wild animals, including big cats, bears, and primates. Unfortunately, the law currently allows many exotic pet owners and unqualified facilities to continue to keep, breed, and acquire these species by obtaining a USDA license.
USDA licensed facilities in Maryland have a long history of violations of the Animal Welfare Act-related to attacks, escapes, and inadequate veterinary care-yet despite these federal citations, they continue to operate. Our analysis found tigers living in deteriorating empty swimming pools, primates living in crowded or isolated conditions without adequate environmental enrichment, bears exhibiting neurotic behaviors, and dangerous and outdated cages. Read the full report here»
Please make a brief, polite phone call to your state legislators and ask them to strengthen Maryland's laws regarding dangerous wild animals in captivity by supporting SB 827/HB 1124. Look up your legislator's phone number here. You can say, "I recently read about the conditions at three of Maryland's roadside zoos and am concerned that these zoos are allowed to keep dangerous wild animals. Please support SB 827/HB 1124 which will limit the possession of these animals to qualified professionals."
After making your phone call (please do not skip that crucial step!), fill in and submit the form below to send a follow-up message. Be sure to edit your message so it's short, snappy, and compelling.[-] less
We've learned that the notoriously cruel Kelly Miller circus will be visiting several towns in Missouri this month. Last year, a number of people reported witnessing abuse at this circus, including tigers being whipped and struck in the face by a trainer.
Circuses use violence, fear and pain to keep their animals under control. Standard circus industry training tools used on animals include bullhooks, whips, clubs, and electric prods. Tigers and elephants in circuses spend about 11 months of the year traveling. Virtually 96 percent of a circus animal's life is spent in chains or cages. There is no place for this abuse in Missouri!
We want the venues hosting the Kelly Miller circus as well as Missouri lawmakers and Chambers of Commerce to know that the people of Missouri do NOT want to see captive big cats, elephants and other animals forced to perform in circuses! It's an outdated form of "family entertainment" that is no fun for the animals and needs to stop now.
Elephants and big cats suffer lifelong debilitating effects from being forced to perform unnatural acts. Besides the inherent cruelty of living life on the road in a cage and being dragged from city to city in semi-trucks, the animals develop crippling arthritis in their joints at an early age.
Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the minimal standards of care set forth in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). These animals have the right to be protected.
Using animals in circuses is an unnecessary and inhumane practice that's harmful to both the animals and the public. Wild animals behave instinctively and unpredictably. In more than 35 dangerous incidents since 2000, circus animals have run amok through streets, crashed into building, attacked members of the public, and injured handlers.
Observing circus animals teaches the public and children nothing about the natural behaviors of the animals. Circuses that exploit animals make lofty claims about their "educational" value and their contributions to "conservation." But the real message that these circuses send to children is that it's acceptable to abuse animals for amusement and profit.
These animals do not have a choice, but we do. Can we count on you to give these animals a voice by standing up for them when others clearly are not? Thank you!!
Big Cat Rescue had numerous phone and email conversations last year with Shaun Walsh, president of the marathon, to educate him and the marathon's board of directors about the extensive breeding and cub petting this facility does. We also informed Walsh that Antle has decades of animal care citations and investigations dating all the way back to 1989.
Antle claims his "Rare Species Fund" contributes to wildlife conservation, but Rare Species Fund does not even appear to be a non-profit registered with the IRS.
This year Walsh asked us to contact Bill Stanton, whom he said was facilitating the relationship with Antle. Stanton did not reply to our email asking that the marathon cancel the tiger cub exhibit.
Please ask the Myrtle Beach Marathon to stop exploiting tiger cubs and cancel the cub display during their marathon. [-] less
If you haven't seen the Good Morning America story, here is the link: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/10/swim-with-a...
The REAL question is how can the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) and the USDA be aware of the "swim with tiger cub encounters" at Dade City's Wild Things for the last TWO YEARS and not shut them down? Big Cat Rescue has repeatedly filed complaints with both governmental agencies about this issue and many others at this backyard zoo, which has the gall to claim to be a sanctuary and rehabilitation facility for wildlife! Learn more about this roadside zoo at www.TigerCubAbuse2.com.
So far our complaints to both agencies have seemingly fallen on deaf ears. Yet the FWC recently stated that children swimming in pools with young alligators whose mouths were taped shut was wrong. Huh? Swimming with alligators is wrong but swimming with tiger cubs is ok?
Well, finally, the national exposure Dade City's Wild Things received on Good Morning America has backfired on them: thousands of animal lovers from around the country and the world have seen the broadcast and are incensed. Big Cat Rescue has received hundreds of calls, emails and posts on our Facebook page since the story aired. People are outraged and want to SHUT THIS DOWN.
Won't you help us? Please speak up for Tony, Tarzan and the other tiger and lion cubs at Dade City's Wild Things and politely let the FWC and USDA know that we are no longer going to tolerate this abuse!