Global. Large cats, bears and other wild animals kept in crude, cramped, totally inadequate conditions in yards, at truck stops and roadside “zoos”; virtually no regulatory protection. U.S. interstate trade is illegal, but 31 states still allow the backyard keeping of exotic cats. Worse, some people offer them for hunting (see canned hunts below). This problem varies in countries other than the U.S. from moderate to rampant, and little or no regulation means statistics and other information about it is very hard to find, if it even exists.
Who’s fighting this: Big Cat Rescue, Big Cat Caucus, Wisconsin Big Cat
Rescue, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), HSUS (Humane Society of the
United States), PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), Animal
Rights Africa, WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals), many
Thanks to the efforts of WCS members and friends, President Bush signed the Captive Wildlife Safety Act into law in December 2003. The new law bans the interstate trade and importation of big cats, such as lions and tigers, as pets and is an important step in ending the big cat pet trade in the United States. However, there are still 31 states, including New York, where residents can buy and maintain big cats as pets within state borders.
The practice of keeping big cats by individuals is on the rise in the United States. It is estimated that 15,000 big cats are currently held outside of accredited zoos in the U.S., representing a 500 percent increase since 1997. Each year there are reports of serious injuries and fatalities to owners, family members or neighbors and of malnourished and unhealthy animals. They are often abandoned when they become older and more difficult to keep. Unfortunately, the animals, because of their uncertain genealogy, cannot be included in science-based conservation breeding programs. Many owners insist that the animals are “pets” or even “part of the family” (a quote used by an owner of the Tiger Truckstop in Louisiana). This notion that a large carnivore is a family “pet” is so outrageous as to hardly need argument. Coincidentally, those “family pets” are used to make money, and are kept in appalling conditions, hardly something one would normally do with a family member.
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