IFAW, Lawmakers Push Bill Protecting Big Cats

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

One of the many idiosyncrasies of humanity is our desire to domesticate otherwise wild animals and keep them around as pets. This has generally worked out well for us in regards to small birds, cats, dogs and fish. There are those, however, who push the limits of this domesticity too far and end up endangering the very animal they claim to care for so much. Last week, US Representatives Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced a bill to specifically protect big cats from the dangers of inexperienced domesticity. The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act would prohibit the private breeding and possession of big cats in an effort to protect the general public, as well as the cats themselves.

“No matter how many times people try, big cats such as lions, tigers and cheetahs are impossible to domesticate for personal possession,” said Congressman Mckeon, explaining the bill in a press statement.

“This bill is a step forward in protecting the public and will ensure that big cats are taken care of humanely in proper living conditions.”

While there are already laws meant to protect big cats and prohibit breeding and collection by the inexperienced, these laws vary greatly from state to state. The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act aims to create one federal solution to cover the entire nation. The Public Protection part of the bill is particularly important when considering an incident that took place in October 2011.

One Ohio resident had been keeping several big cats in cages along with bears, monkeys and wolves. Just before committing suicide, Terry Thompson opened up the cages holding all of these animals, turning Zanesville, Ohio into a small zoo. Public safety officers who had not been trained to handle wild animals were then forced to shoot and kill 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, three mountain lions, two grizzly bears, two wolves and a baboon.

Immediately following the incident, Ohio was chided for having some of the most relaxed regulations regarding wild animals in the country.

“Ohio is one of the worst states in terms of lax legislations. We’re hoping this will at least be the trigger for some kind of legislation,” said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA in an October 2011 interview with USA Today.

Tim Harrison, Director of Outreach for Animals and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Big Cat Public Safety Consultant said he was one of those who responded to the Ohio incident and “will never forget the look on those officers´ faces that had to shoot and kill lions and tigers in their small community.”

Keeping big cats and other animals as pets not only places the public in danger, it also places the animals themselves in danger and even under the efforts of conservationists. Tigers are said to be the worst off of these big cats, with about 5,000 believed to reside in the United States. The IFAW is now urging all concerned citizens to contact their representatives to co-sponsor the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.

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