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To protect people and animals, support HB 1151

Printed in the Chronicle on Saturday, January 24, 2004

Our readers' opinions

To the editor:

2003 seemed like the year that wild animals kept as pets finally got fed up with captivity and took matters into their own hands, so to speak. Incidents of rebellion ranged from Gambian rats passing monkey pox on to people, to a tiger attack which nearly halved the inseparable magic duo, Siegfried and Roy. Last month a boy in North Carolina wasnít so lucky as the former magician, when he was dragged into the cage by his familyís Bengal tiger.

That attack proved fatal.

In nearby Rainier last August, a black bear escaped for the fourth time from a collection of exotic animals that included a grizzly bear, Bengal tiger, cougar and alligators. Thurston County sheriffs were concerned about public safety, as well as the welfare of the animals.

Private individuals often donít realize, until too late, that wild animals require special care, diet, housing and maintenance, and do not take kindly to captivity. Consequently, they will resort to de-clawing, chaining or attempt to beat the animal into submission.

I witnessed this firsthand while visiting a woman who kept tigers and other exotic animals on a few acres in Snohomish County. For some reason she went into the small, barren and muddy chain-link cage where the tigers were kept.

When one of them playfully reached for her, she grabbed a heavy tree limb and clubbed the tiger over the head with all her might.

From the points of view of lions, tigers and bears who are kept penned up 24/7 (for someoneís hobby or to satisfy an inflated human ego), this issue goes way beyond property rights or childhood dreams of owning a wild animal as a pet.

And as long as there is an exotic pet trade there will be poachers out killing lionesses or tigresses and stealing their young to sell as pets. To protect people and animals, ask your representatives to support HB 1151, which would restrict future private possession of wild animals such as large cats, bears and alligators.

Jim Robertson

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