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October 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Feeding Garbage to Bears and Voters in Maine

I’ve been involved in dozens of political campaigns around the country over two decades, and the brazen lies and scare tactics used by state officials working in collusion with the bear baiting, hounding, and trapping crowd in Maine are among the worst I’ve ever seen. The Bangor Daily News, which doesn’t even support Question 1, has published editorials calling the opponents of the measure “dishonest” and judging their claims “low-quality arguments that don’t pass the straight-face test,” with the wrong compounded by the fact they are spending state tax dollars telling people how to vote.

Bear_maine_blog
Alamy

The opponents of a ban on baiting keep saying “trust the experts,” but a court-ordered release of internal documents demonstrates that the experts don’t believe their own alarmist rhetoric. The “Yes on 1” campaign today released two new videos highlighting the other side’s hypocrisy and the hollowness of their claims.

The first video shows three uniformed staff members of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife — all but working full-time, it would seem, to defeat the baiting ban — saying “it’s a serious threat to public safety.” But their own words prove their claim to be false: DIF&W’s Randy Cross said in a 2012 email to a constituent, “I think your fear of bears is exaggerated and is not rational…Since there has not been an unprovoked bear attack in the history of white settlement in Maine, it is not a realistic threat.”

Moreover, in a recent op-ed, George Smith, the former director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the guy who led the campaign against a similar initiative a decade ago, concedes that “you do not need to be scared of bears. I will admit that scaring you about bears was an important part of our strategy…If you see a bear in the woods, you are most likely to see its rear end as it flees.”

What’s worse, their TV ads feature a sensational bear attack in Florida, which has no relevance to baiting, hounding, and trapping. Except that the bear in this case was “baited” into an open garage with food in a trash can, and the people involved were charged by state wildlife officers for illegally feeding bears. That’s right, the opponents invoke this bear attack, from 1,500 miles away, involving people in a Florida neighborhood who were feeding this bear.  

Precisely in order to avoid incidents like this, every reputable wildlife agency in the country says “Don’t feed the bears” — except the outliers in Maine and a small number of other states who support using Twinkies and Dunkin Donuts as a “wildlife management tool.” Good wildlife managers know that “garbaging for bears” is the worst thing you can do, because it swells the bear population and teaches them to look for human junk food.

The second video features DIF&W staff saying bears don’t struggle but “just sit there,” and that all of these tools are “necessary, safe, and kind.” With images of bears struggling to free themselves from wire snares, and being torn apart by packs of dogs, does the idea that these practices are “kind” really pass the straight-face test? It’s terror, not kindness. You have to wonder how detached and desensitized these people at the agency are, and shake your head at how far off of the rails they’ve gone in their public capacities. Of course, the head biologist for the state is a bear baiter and recreational trapper, so it should not come as a huge surprise.

Maine is in a sad class by itself as the only state in the nation to allow all three of these extreme methods of killing bears. And the apologists for shooting fed, treed, and trapped bears will apparently say and do just about anything to get their way. Please share these videos and make sure Maine voters and all concerned people know the truth about these false and dishonest claims.

Paid for with regulated funds by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting. P.O. Box 15367, Portland, ME, 04112

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Countdown to Election Day

We’re just days from the November 4th election, and there are critical races for humane candidates and animal protection issues all over the country. I want to provide a rundown of several key updates as we enter the final stretch.

MICHIGAN SENATE:  This week the Humane Society Legislative Fund is running this TV ad in Michigan urging voters across the state to support Gary Peters for U.S. Senate. Peters is a leading champion for animals, and it’s powerful ads like this one that let voters know where the candidates stand on animal protection. We’re telling voters that Gary Peters led the fight to ban disgusting, cruel crush videos (where small animals are filmed literally being crushed, just for the sexual pleasure of viewers). And we’re making sure they know he worked to crack down on puppy mills, illegal animal fighting, and other cruelties.  

MICHIGAN WOLVES:  Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is running two TV ads (here and here) urging Michigan voters to say “No” to the trophy hunting of wolves and “No” to the power grab by politicians, by voting “No” on Proposals 1 and 2. No one eats wolf meat, and it’s already legal to kill problem wolves. Voters shouldn’t lose their right to have a say on wildlife policy issues, and shouldn’t hand the unilateral power to a committee of seven unelected, politically appointed bureaucrats. Visit NoOn1and2.com for more information, and spread the word by sending email to your friends and family in Michigan.

MAINE BEARS:  Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is working across the state to get out the “Yes” vote on Question 1, to ban the cruel and unsporting practices of hounding, baiting, and trapping bears. Maine is the only state to allow all three of these extreme methods. The opponents are running sensational and alarmist scare ads, which a Bangor Daily News editorial called “dishonest” and “the lowest common denominator in campaigns.” The polls show a dead heat, and every vote will count. If you live in Maine, and are not yet registered to vote, you can register up until Election Day: Just visit YesOnQuestion1.com/vote for more information on voter registration and where to find your polling place. You can also spread the word by sending email to your friends and family in Maine.

Vote2VOTER GUIDE:  We've been working around the clock to get the word out about humane candidates. Running TV and online ads, sending mail, making phone calls, going door-to-door—you name it. As you know, the Humane Society Legislative Fund is the leading political advocacy organization for animals. We endorse and support candidates who have a proven record of being pro-animal—not because of political party, affiliation, or their position on any other issue. We're hitting the ground hard for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in dozens of races around the country. Check out our Voter Guide to find HSLF-endorsed candidates in your state. In addition to the Maine and Michigan proposals, there’s also information on other statewide ballot measures affecting animals, such as a Florida amendment to protect wildlife habitat, and local measures to fund the Pima County, Arizona, animal shelter, and to repeal Aurora, Colorado’s ban on pit bull type dogs.

We need humane leaders in office who will fight for common-sense policies to crack down on the wildlife trade, inhumane factory farming practices, horse slaughter, and so much more. Please consider making a last-minute gift to HSLF to keep our boots on the ground and our message on the air. No amount is too small. Your generous gift will help us support humane candidates for office and advance critical animal protection legislation long after Election Day.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bears, Snares, and Scares in Maine

The opponents of fair bear hunting in Maine are taking outrageous liberties with their misleading campaign rhetoric. One of their constant refrains is that Question 1—which would ban the cruel and unsporting hounding, trapping, and baiting of bears in the last state to allow all three extreme methods—is largely funded by out-of-state groups, including The HSUS and HSLF. Never mind that those groups have tens of thousands of members who are Maine residents, and who want to rid their state of this terrible cruelty.

Bears_blog_alamy
Alamy
Voters in Maine will decide the fate of bears next Tuesday.

But the biggest omission is that the opponents of the measure, themselves, are mostly financed by out of state cash. According to their most recent campaign finance reports, the opponents’ campaign has amassed a war chest of more than $2.3 million, and 53 percent of reported donations have come from outside Maine.

That includes more than $150,000 from the Ohio-based U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, about $40,000 from the Virginia-based National Rifle Association, more than $60,000 from the Arizona-based Safari Club International, and $65,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based “Ballot Issues Coalition” made up of several national hunting organizations. It also includes $400,000 from one individual who lives in Vermont.

Maine is the only state to allow trapping of bears for sport, and it’s no surprise that trappers’ groups around the country are rallying to keep Maine as a virtual do-as-you-please zone, the one place where they can snare bears in wire nooses and allow them to suffer and struggle to free themselves for hours or even days. Trapping organizations have pumped more than $187,000 into the campaign—that includes donations from the Indiana-based National Trappers Association, and from individual trappers associations not only in Maine but also in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.

And what are they doing with all that cash from trappers and other states? They’re footing the bill for state-sponsored scare tactics and fear-mongering. The TV ads run by the opponents focus on bear attacks in Florida, and all but tell voters that bears will overrun the streets of downtown Portland and eat your children if they can’t be hounded, baited, and trapped. It turns out even their own biologists, outdoor writers, and hunting organization leaders don’t believe this alarmist claptrap about bears.

Randy Cross is one of the state bear biologists who appears in a TV ad calling Question 1 a “serious threat to public safety.” But in an email released under court order last week, Cross admits, “I think your fear of bears is exaggerated and is not rational…Since there has not been an unprovoked bear attack in the history of white settlement in Maine, it is not a realistic threat.”

So much for logical consistency.

In a recent op-ed, George Smith, the former director of the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine, concedes that “you do not need to be scared of bears.”  Smith, who ran the campaign to defeat a similar initiative a decade ago, conceded he resorted to these unethical tactics. “I will admit that scaring you about bears,” Smith said, “was an important part of our strategy in 2004, and remains a powerful issue for those opposing the referendum. If you see a bear in the woods, you are most likely to see its rear end as it flees. I have had quite a few encounters with bears in the woods and never had a problem.”

Hunting writer and Question 1 opponent John Holyoke made a similar claim in a recent column: “The more alarmist among them have suggested that bears will attack people, eat their babies and terrorize us all. That’s just hyperbole, and has no place in the upcoming debate.”

Exaggerated. Not rational. Hyperbole. It’s no wonder a Bangor Daily News editorial said the opponents’ claims are “low-quality arguments that don’t pass the straight-face test.” Maine voters should reject these false scare tactics, and say “Yes” to decency by voting “Yes” on Question 1.   And the rest of us should remember the pitiful low to which defenders of these cruel practices have sunk in Maine.

Paid for with regulated funds by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting. P.O. Box 15367, Portland, ME, 04112

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Tale of Two Attorneys General

When advocating for the enactment of humane laws, we're sometimes reminded that getting a bill passed by the legislature and signed by the governor means we are “up at halftime going into the locker room.” Before we can have confidence that a new law will have impact, we often have to defend against legal challenges and ensure that it is properly enforced. We rely on all sorts of law enforcement personnel to do this work. But often a key second-half player is the state’s chief law enforcement officer—the attorney general.

Hens-hslf
The HSUS
AG Harris stood up for the humane treatment of hens.

Take Missouri AG Chris Koster, for example. He stumped for Missouri’s “right to farm” amendment which passed by just 0.2 percent of the statewide vote and could allow puppy mills and corporate factory farms to harm animals with impunity.

And, as another sop to Big Ag, he led a group of states that filed suit in federal court, trying to tell California it didn't have the right to ban the sale of eggs from hens crammed in tiny battery cages so small that they can’t even flap their wings—animals who were more likely to carry Salmonella, too.

The failed lawsuit, which Koster said would cost less than $10,000, ended up bilking Missouri taxpayers for more than $83,000, and he far overshot his promised ceiling.

Thankfully, there are attorneys general who are standing up for animals and consumers, not for Big Ag and special interests. California AG Kamala Harris successfully defended the state law on the sale of inhumane and unsafe battery cage eggs. A federal judge in Sacramento accepted the argument advanced by her office and by HSUS attorneys that Koster and his cronies lacked standing to challenge California’s law, going so far as to disallow any attempt to re-file the case.

In fact, because California is a leader on animal protection policy, AG Harris has faced an unprecedented set of challenges to state laws. Other states, egg producers, shark fin traders and foie gras factory farms have all sued California over wildly popular laws aimed at protecting animals from abuse and cruelty. And in each case, AG Harris and her office were successful in defending and upholding these important policies.

In addition to the Koster suit, Harris helped defeat three separate challenges to Proposition 2, the pioneering ballot initiative that will require by January 1, 2015 that breeding pigs, veal calves, and laying hens in California have enough space to turn around, stand up, lie down, and extend their limbs. One of those challenges remains pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where AG Harris continues to defend the farm animal protection measure.

General Harris and her team were also critical in defending California’s ban on the possession and sale of shark fins, aimed at cracking down on the brutal practice of shark finning, which is contributing to the widespread decimation in shark species worldwide. In the face of a lawsuit brought by shark fin traders, AG Harris and HSUS attorneys argued successfully that California’s law is neither discriminatory nor preempted by federal fisheries management laws. The law stands and will help stem the tide of shark fins and prevent sharks from being butchered alive at sea.

And finally, in news that broke last week, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal brought by foie gras producers, aimed at upending California’s ban on the sale of the fatty, diseased liver from cruelly force-fed ducks and geese. General Harris defended the law at the district court and on appeal, and filed a brief opposing Supreme Court review of the Ninth Circuit opinion, while Koster joined 12 other attorneys general in filing an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to consider overturning the foie gras ban.

The attorney general is a statewide, elected office in California, Missouri, and most other states. Attorneys general like Koster use their office as a hammer to drive their political ambitions.

But there are other lawmakers not only committed to the rule of law, but also to the values of mercy and humane treatment for animals, even those raised for food. California voters should be proud that Kamala Harris is standing up for what’s right and that she's fighting to protect abused animals and the will of the people. HSLF is proud to endorse her for reelection.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Newspapers Urge YES on Maine's Question 1 to Protect Bears

Whenever we’ve confronted terrible cruelty, there’s always been a fierce effort to defend it. I think of tough fights in Louisiana to ban cockfighting, in California on Prop 2 and extreme confinement, and on bear baying in South Carolina.

Seldom do we see unanimous support for reform. There are always opinion leaders who don’t accept the real meaning of animal protection, or others who excuse cruelty or think it’s too much, too fast.

That’s certainly the case in Maine, where there is a looming ballot initiative to ban bear baiting, hounding, and trapping. There, some opinion leaders defend this sort of cruelty and unfair treatment. But I’m struck by so many people calling cruelty for what it is.

Bear_maine_blog
istock.com

The Journal Tribune says, “It’s hard to imagine a self-respecting, lifelong, traditional Maine woodsman calling himself a hunter when all he does is shoot a feeding, treed or trapped animal point-blank.”

The paper gives readers a clear picture of what these practices involve:“Traps only need to be checked once every 24 hours, which can leave an animal tormented for a lengthy period of time, and even though the snares no longer have cutting teeth, they can still result in the loss of a paw or digits as the animal attempts to escape. Hounding, while it requires significant time commitment in training dogs, places both the hunting dogs and the bear in danger as they confront one another.”


Further, the York County Coast Star says, “Maine is one of a last handful of states where baiting is allowed, and for good reason. The practice, akin to shooting fish in a barrel, is simply inhumane, and we see nothing sportsmanlike in shooting bears that have been lulled into a near sugar coma by stale doughnuts.”

The group of community papers including the Penobscot Bay Press, Castine Patriot, Island Ad-Vantages, and the Weekly Packet have also rendered their judgment, stating, “It is time that Maine joins the 21st century by showing respect and compassion for a species that shares our land and resources by stopping these unnecessarily cruel and harmful practices. We recommend a strong and unequivocal yes vote.”

And Current Publishing’s chain of newspapers across southern Maine emphatically states, “It’s cruel on many levels…We believe that the act of luring and killing snared bears just doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t even seem like hunting. And we’re not sure why a hunter would feel satisfied with such a kill. Instead of allowing this method of hunting to continue, bring back bear hunting the way it should be.”

Even the papers that oppose Question 1 couldn’t find a lot of favorable things to say about these practices or those who defend them. The Portland Press Herald says, “A bear that’s chased by hounds has to run for its life and spends its last minutes terrified. A bear that steps in a cable snare can spend as long as 24 hours tethered to a tree before a hunter returns to shoot it.”

The Press Herald acknowledges that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife “overreached” in its public campaign against Question 1 and judged that the TV ads “featuring uniformed state employees warning of a public safety crisis that could occur if the referendum passes were unnecessarily alarmist.”

The Bangor Daily News, too, says the state agency opposing Question 1 is making “low-quality arguments that don’t pass the straight-face test.” The paper also calls on politicians and state officials to do away with bear hounding and trapping: “If it fails at the polls, the Legislature and IF&W need to ban recreational bear trapping and hounding, or risk having this costly fight again.”

That doesn’t inspire much confidence in the decision makers who have made Maine an outlier, as the only state to still allow these three extreme bear hunting methods. They’ve had years to get it right, but they continue to allow bears to struggle and suffer in wire traps for hours or even a day, or to be chased by packs of GPS-collared hounds and shot off a tree branch. And they allow garbage dumps to be set up in the woods, with 7 million pounds of Twinkies and jelly doughnuts every year swelling the bear population and creating nuisance bears.

When the politicians and state officials are unresponsive to the wishes of the public, it’s time for the public to weigh in. Mainers can do just that in two weeks—and can end cruel and unsporting bear baiting, hounding, and trapping—by voting “YES” on Question 1.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Who Should Shoulder the Financial Burden when Animals are Abused?

Local and state anti-cruelty statues play a critical role in ensuring the humane treatment of animals in a community. When the right laws are on the books, animals can be removed from potentially dangerous situations, out of the hands of those suspected of abusing and neglecting them. Let’s say, for example, that 20 dogs, seven horses, and 39 chickens are found to be neglected, living and suffering in deplorable conditions on someone’s private property. Then, under a state anti-cruelty ordinance, the animals are seized by law enforcement, and officials proceed to press charges against the animals’ owner. By all accounts, it would seem the system’s working. Right?

Malamute_blog
The HSUS
Brian and Kimi spent more than a year in a shelter post-rescue.

The answer might surprise you. Animal welfare organizations and local officials who work to protect animals often find themselves in situations where, it seems, no good deed goes unpunished.

It’s not uncommon that they—rather than the animals’ owners—have to bear a prohibitively heavy financial burden to care for the rescued animals.

The rescuing agencies are often required to hold seized animals for months or even years while the judicial system moves through what can be a painstakingly slow process. In puppy mill and animal fighting cases, agencies can seize dozens of animals who need extensive veterinary care. Needless to say, associated costs can soar, placing a burden on these local organizations that have limited means. It can even create a latent disincentive within the relevant agencies to enforce the laws originally meant to protect animals.

For the system to really work, these important anti-cruelty statutes need to be augmented, through such measures as “cost of animal care” laws. Already on the books and proven to work in Pennsylvania, Virginia and 14 other states, the most effective cost of animal care laws shift the financial burden of caring for animals lawfully seized from situations of cruelty, abuse, and neglect from county governments and nonprofit shelters to the animals’ owner, saving animals and tax dollars. Instead of leaving local taxpayers and nonprofit organizations to foot the significant cost, the owner, who’s legally responsible for the animals’ care, is held accountable.

These laws provide that if an agency is holding animals seized from cruelty, the agency can go to court to request a bond payment from the animals’ owner to help pay for the animals’ care. If the judge determines that the seizure and amount requested are reasonable, and the owner fails to pay the bond, the animals are relinquished to the agency and can be placed for adoption. The owner has the opportunity for an expedited hearing to challenge the legality of the seizure and the reasonableness of the bond requirement, respecting due process and fair treatment of the people involved.

In states without effective cost of animal care laws, some shelters often can’t even rescue animals suffering in their community because they simply don’t have the resources to provide long-term care. If they do intervene and seize neglected or abused animals, they can be forced to turn away or euthanize adoptable animals because of space and staff limitations. One Georgia officer noted that at a certain point, his agency had more animals held for court than were available for adoption. And for the animals held for court, their journey out of a bad situation can be a long one. Unable to move to a new home or family until the criminal case is resolved, they languish in custody like a seized or impounded car.

How often do we see in our work that the problems created by reckless individuals are passed on as a financial burden to the rest of society? Tigers bred for roadside zoos and photo ops, chimps used in TV commercials, Burmese pythons let loose by exotic pet owners to wreak havoc in the environment. The people creating the problem by abusing and neglecting animals should bear some responsibility for their care and shouldn’t dump the problem on others to clean up their mess.

Cost of animal care laws are a sensible solution for the animals, as well as taxpayers and the broader animal welfare infrastructure. HSLF and HSUS have joined with other partners such as the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the National Animal Control Association, and will work in states like Alaska, California, Georgia, Maryland, Montana and New Hampshire, to implement these policies. If your state doesn’t have such laws in place, urge your legislators to pass them.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Cast Your Ballot for Animals

On February 18, 1958, then-Senator John F. Kennedy told an audience of Loyola College alumni in Baltimore that we should “not seek the Republican answer or the Democrat answer but the right answer.”

Today, 56 years later and just 26 days shy of a crucial election, we at the Humane Society Legislative Fund are also after the right answers. The right answers for animals are the lawmakers who will fight animal cruelty and abuse, and stand up for the values of kindness and compassion.

This week we released our Animal Protection Voter Guide—a list of those humane-minded candidates endorsed by HSLF who need your support in three and a half weeks. You’ll see Democrats, Republicans, and Independents on the list—we make endorsements based on candidates’ records or positions on animal issues rather than on political party or affiliation.

We hope you’ll take the Voter Guide with you to the polls. Election Day is November 4, but early voting is already open in many places throughout the country. Check the guide to see if voting is open where you live.

Cat_270x240
Julie Busch Branaman
Vote for humane candidates on or before Nov. 3

So, so much is at stake this year. Michigan residents: you’ll notice a slate of pro-animal candidates at the federal and state levels who need your support, and we’ve highlighted the important NO vote on Proposals 1 and 2.

There are fewer than 650 wolves in Michigan, and and the federal government recently took them off the endangered species list. Politicians and state officials didn’t waste a minute to try to open a trophy hunting season, fabricating stories about wolf encounters with residents to support their reckless idea. 

The use of painful steel-jawed leghold traps, hunting over bait, and even using packs of dogs to chase down and kill wolves may all be in store if the Natural Resources Commission is given the unilateral power to decide on these cruel methods without any checks and balances from Michigan voters. Voters can say NO to the trophy hunting of wolves and say NO to this power grab by politicians, with a NO vote on Proposals 1 and 2.

November 4 will also be critical for Maine residents: You have the chance to ban the baiting, hounding, and trapping of bears, by voting YES on Question 1. Maine is the only state in the country to still allow all three of these cruel and unsporting practices. Hunters are not allowed to bait, hound, or trap deer or moose, and they shouldn’t be allowed to do it to bears. It's particularly cruel to trap a bear in a snare, and it’s unfair to shoot a bear out of a tree or over a dump site. Head to your city or town hall to cast your YES vote for Question 1 now—you don’t even have to wait until Election Day.

Along with these ballot measure campaigns, there are important candidate races from coast to coast. The pro-animal candidates need your help and your vote. In order to have humane laws, we must elect humane lawmakers. We need people in office who will stand up to puppy mills, factory farming, animal fighting, and other abuses, and support a positive agenda of animal welfare.

Your vote, combined with that of other humane voters who care about the fate of animals, can be the difference.

The animals are counting on us to participate in this election. Please grab your list, and make sure to vote early or on November 4.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Caught on Tape: The Problem of Tigers as Pets and Photo Ops

Alex the Tiger at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch Credit JP Bonnelly
Alex the tiger at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch. Credit: J.P. Bonnelly

Starting tomorrow, October 2, animal lovers around the world will get a rare insider’s look into the life of tigers. Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch’s TigerCam offers Internet users a live glimpse of a new beginning for four rescued tigers in the sanctuary’s recently opened five-acre big cat habitat. Black Beauty Ranch, operated by our affiliate The Fund for Animals, is a sprawling East Texas sanctuary that offers a home to animals who were abused or abandoned in the exotic pet trade, horse slaughter plants, research laboratories, and other forms of cruelty and neglect.

The stars of TigerCam—Alex, Gustavo, Anastasia, and Natalia—were all once privately owned animals rescued by The HSUS and other organizations—one tiger from an abandoned Kansas menagerie and three from an unaccredited, roadside zoo in Mississippi. Eleven exotic animals were seized from inhumane conditions at the Collins Zoo in 2012, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture revoked its license earlier this year.

It’s very happy news that these four tigers found a safe landing place at Black Beauty Ranch. But there’s too great a demand for sanctuaries these days. Far too many animals are in crisis because our laws still permit the private ownership and overbreeding of dangerous predators by reckless individuals—and it’s the sanctuaries, nonprofit groups, and government agencies that have to clean up the mess.

Thousands of captive tigers and lions, in fact, live in unaccredited breeding facilities, squalid roadside zoos, pseudo-sanctuaries, and in private homes in the 17 states where such pet ownership is still legal. Although USDA is currently considering a legal petition by The HSUS and other groups to prohibit such activity, exhibitors routinely make tiger and lion cubs available for photographs and interaction with the public at roadside zoos and shopping malls across the country. Unqualified caretakers and unaccredited facilities make for environments that are unnatural and inhumane for these wild animals, whose most basic biological and behavioral needs often go unmet.

Anastasia Sedated Collins Zoo Rescue Jan. 2012 Kathy Milani
Anastasia sedated during the Collins Zoo rescue. Credit: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

It almost never ends well for the people or animals. When the baby tigers and lions grow up and become dangerous and difficult to handle, they’re dumped at sanctuaries and nonprofit animal welfare groups across the country that must then spend millions of dollars to care for them.

That’s why HSLF and other groups are working hard to help pass the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, S. 1381 and H.R. 1998, to end the private possession and breeding of tigers, lions, and other big cats. Introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., the federal policy would help stem the reckless overbreeding of these captive wild animals for display, protecting public safety and the welfare of big cats caught up in this trade.

In the last 24 years, four children have been killed, and 66 have lost limbs or suffered other injuries in incidents involving captive big cats. Eighteen adults have been killed in similar incidents during that time, and many others have been mauled. To date more there’ve been more than 330 recorded cases of dangerous interactions with big cats, in almost every state.

Lions and tigers are dangerous wild animals, not backyard pets. Those in the wild deserve our best efforts to ensure their protection, and those in captivity deserve thoughtful, considered care. That’s best left to professional zoos and legitimate wildlife sanctuaries accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Please contact your federal legislators today, and urge them to pass the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. If they could, the four TigerCam stars would thank you.

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