Strengthen Federal Law to Protect Big Cats
Update: In February 2013, this bill died in comittee. ALDF encourages lawmakers to support new legislation to protect big cats in the future.
In October 2011, sheriff’s deputies in Zanesville, Ohio responded to calls about a loose African lion and bear sighted by neighbors of an exotic animal “farm.” Officers soon discovered that the farm’s owner, Terry Thompson, had intentionally released over 50 exotic animals from his farm and then committed suicide. In the name of public safety, the deputies tracked down and shot the released animals. At the conclusion of the massacre, the pile of carcasses included 18 tigers, 17 African lions, and three mountain lions, as well as bears, wolves, and a baboon. Thompson had previous convictions for cruelty to animals and possession of illegal firearms.
This tragedy highlights the critical need for laws to prohibit possession of wild and exotic animals as “pets.” Among the problems caused by the wild animal trade:
- In the U.S., an estimated 10,000 - 20,000 big cats are currently in private hands, causing significant public safety concerns by endangering neighbors -- including children and pets -- as well as officers who act as first responders.
- The animals are frequently victims of neglect, living in deplorable conditions. Additionally, some captors might use the animals for illegal international trade in their parts.
- Taxpayers and local agencies bear a high financial burden when dangerous animals escape or when they are seized due to cruelty and neglect.
The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (H.R. 4122) would help stem the exotic “pet” trade by strengthening provisions in federal law by prohibiting future breeding, possessing, or owning of lions, tigers, and other big cats. The bill also would require people who currently possess big cats to register those animals with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This bill amends the Lacey Act, which already provides exemptions for government agencies and wildlife sanctuaries. H.R. 4122 adds an exemption for accredited zoos, too.
Urge your Congressional representative to support the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act to protect people and animals by completing the information to the right! H.R. 4122 has bipartisan support, but it is languishing in a subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources. Please take action today!