Newspaper article Roll Call

Federal Legislation Needed to Protect Big Cats

Newspaper article Roll Call

Federal Legislation Needed to Protect Big Cats

Article excerpt

Almost one year ago, Zanesville, Ohio, suffered a terrible tragedy. Before committing suicide, the owner of a backyard menagerie opened the cages of his exotic pets, allowing tigers, leopards, lions, wolves, bears and monkeys to escape and wander about in the community.

Aggressive in nature and meant to thrive in the wild, these animals roamed the streets, posing a threat to the citizens of Muskingum County, themselves and public safety. Local authorities, who were neither trained nor properly equipped to deal with a situation of that magnitude, responded the best way they knew how and were forced to shoot and kill nearly 50 animals -- 38 of them big cats -- before they could enter populated areas.

In light of this tragic event, California Reps. Buck McKeon (R) and Loretta Sanchez (D) introduced H.R. 4122, the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. The bill seeks to prohibit breeding and private possession of big cats and would ensure that lions, tigers and other dangerous big cats do not threaten public safety, diminish global big cat conservation efforts or live in abusive conditions. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced S. 3547, a companion bill in the Senate. Both bills seek to prohibit breeding and private possession of big cats and would ensure that lions, tigers and other dangerous big cats do not threaten public safety, diminish global big cat conservation efforts or live in abusive conditions.

It is estimated that there are 10,000 to 20,000 big cats held in private ownership in the United States, although the exact number remains a mystery because of the lack of disclosure requirements. In the past couple of decades, incidents involving captive big cats have resulted in the deaths of 21 humans (including five children), the additional mauling of 247 more humans, 259 escapes, 143 big cats deaths and 132 confiscations. …

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