Tigers, lions and communities across the country may soon receive critical protection
WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) today introduced S.3547, the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, aimed at prohibiting private possession and breeding of captive big cats in the United States. The House version of the bill was introduced by U.S. Reps. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) last March.
Kerry's action comes on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Zanesville, Ohio animal massacre where the owner of a backyard collection of tigers, lions and other exotic wildlife, committed suicide after freeing the animals from their cages. Local police were forced to shoot and kill nearly 50 animals – 38 of them big cats – before they could enter populated areas.
With some states banning private ownership of big cats and other states imposing partial bans or no restrictions, current regulation of big cat possession and breeding fails to protect public safety and animal welfare.
"It's a little hard to believe that there's a crazy patchwork of regulations governing people who try to keep wild cats as pets. I know it sounds like something you just read about when there's a tragic news story, but it's all too real for first responders who respond to a 911 call and are surprised to come face to face with a Bengal tiger," said Sen. Kerry. "This bill will ensure that these endangered creatures are kept in secure, professional facilities like wildlife sanctuaries rather than in small cages in someone's backyard or apartment building."
It is estimated that there are 10,000 to 20,000 big cats currently held in private ownership in the U.S. In the past two decades, more than 300 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats have resulted in the deaths of 21 people (including 5 children) and close to 250 additional humans have been mauled or injured. In addition, scores of big cats have been killed.
"We are grateful to Senator Kerry for his leadership in seeking protection of big cats and citizens," said Tracy Coppola, IFAW Big Cat Campaign Manager. "Federal control is essential toward effectively knowing how many dangerous big cats are being kept in private hands, under what conditions, and where."
S.3547 would make it illegal to possess any big cat except at adequate facilities such as accredited zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. 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.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org
SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare