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CARE Tour - 1

Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions #1

Houston businessman wants to display three tigers at his Downtown Aquarium restaurant


HOUSTON (AP)--A downtown restaurant that already features sharks and other exotic aquatic life wants to add another attraction from the animal kingdom: white tigers.

Houston businessman Tilman Fertitta is working to display three tigers at his Downtown Aquarium restaurant by Major League Baseball's All-Star game in July at Minute Maid Park.

But animal rights activists are condemning the proposal, and some council members say it would violate a city ordinance barring people from having a wild animal in the city.

Restaurant officials say their establishment and downtown Houston would be a more attractive destination for residents, tourists and conventions if the animals were there. They also promise to treat the tigers humanely.

Fertitta, president and chief executive of Landry's Restaurants Inc., which operates the Downtown Aquarium, hopes to get around the city's exotic animal ordinance by seeking accreditation from the American Zoological Association.

``We feel like this is a zoo facility,'' said Jeff Cantwell senior vice president of development for Landry's. ``This is about entertainment and education. It's no different from the Houston Zoo in that respect.''
Landry's has received that accreditation for a similar exhibit at a Denver restaurant.

But animal rights activist Anthony Marr said Fertitta's plan is a commercial enterprise and that ``there does not seem to be a single thought for the well-being of these animals or the future of the species.''
City Controller Annise Parker, who was primarily responsible for drafting the city's exotic animal ordinance, sent a memo to Mayor Bill White and City Council members against the idea.

But many suspect the plan by Fertitta, a successful businessman and a big campaign contributor, will be approved.

``He's very well-connected,'' councilman Mark Goldberg said. ``He's aggressive. And he's successful because he is driven.''

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