This material is being sent at the request of both Ms. Tippi Hedren and The Honorable Howard Buck McKeon (R-CA 25) and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA 46) regarding yesterday announcement about The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. The passing of this bill will finally mean that captive big cats-tigers, lions, cougars and other species - will not threaten public safety, diminish global conservation efforts, or end up living in deplorable conditions. Congressman McKeon's office contact can be found below. For more information regarding Ms. Hedren's efforts with The Shambala Preserve and The ROAR Foundation, please visit Shambala.org.
McKeon and Sanchez Introduce Big Cats & Public Safety Protection Act Washington, D.C.- Today, Congressman Howard Buck McKeon (R-CA 25) and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA 46) introduced H.R. 1998, the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act would prohibit private possession of big cats, such as lions, tigers, panthers and cheetahs, except at highly-qualified facilities, like accredited zoos, where they can be properly cared for and restrained. Additionally, since no agency, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), state agencies, or local first responders, currently knows exactly how many dangerous big cats are being kept in private hands, under what conditions, and in what locations, the bill would require any persons who currently possess big cats to register those animals with USDA in order to keep the cats they currently own. The bill would also outlaw the breeding of any big cat except at accredited zoos and research and educational institutions. Violators of the law could have their animals confiscated along with any vehicles or equipment used to aid in their illegal activity, and could face stiff penalties including fines as much as $20,000, and up to five years in jail. The need for federal legislation regulating the sale and captivity of big cats has become dire. An alarming number of wild cats have been bred and sold as domestic pets in the U.S. This trend threatens public safety and often results in the severe mistreatment of these animals. Most recently, the fatal mauling of young intern at a private wildlife park in Dunlap, California, and the tragic events in Zanesville, Ohio in October, 2011, where 49 wild animals were killed after they were let loose on an unlicensed wild animal preserve, showcase the dangerous implications of this rising trend. Currently, only nine states have laws enforcing no wild animals permitted, and the remaining states have weak or no laws in existence. This bi-partisan bill will deter the dangerous private breeding, selling and keeping of lions, tigers and other dangerous big cats, and will help keep the public safe. This bill will also help global big cat conservation efforts and will work to ensure that big cats do not end up living in horrible conditions where they can be subject to mistreatment and cruelty. No matter how many times people try to do it, wildcats such as lions, tigers, panthers and cheetahs are impossible to domesticate for personal possession, said Congressman McKeon. These wild animals require much higher living standards compared to a domestic house cat and demand care that most black-market owners are not able to provide for. When accidents happen or when individuals learn they can't take care of these animals, and these wild cats are released into our neighborhoods, it causes panic, puts a strain on our local public safety responders and is extremely dangerous. This bill is a step forward in protecting the public, ensuring that wildcats are not exploited and making sure those that are held in captivity are taken care of humanely in proper living conditions. State laws addressing the private ownership and breeding of big cats vary greatly, with some states banning the practice outright while others impose few and partial restrictions, said Congresswoman Sanchez. This patchwork of regulations is confusing and it jeopardizes the safety of the public and the welfare of our animals. The Big Cats bill is a federal solution that will clarify these regulations and will lessen the interstate traffic of various species. This legislation is supported by the Roar Foundation, Shambala Preserve, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Born Free USA, Humane Society of United States, Big Cat Rescue, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Ian Somerhalder Foundation. Sincerely, Congressman Buck McKeon OFFICE INFORMATION WASHINGTON DC OFFICE 2184 Rayburn HOB Washington, DC 20515 phone: 202-225-1956 SANTA CLARITA OFFICE 26650 The Old Road Suite 203 Santa Clarita, CA 91381 phone: 661-254-2111 PALMDALE OFFICE 1008 W. Ave M-14 Suite E Palmdale, CA 93551 phone: 661-274-9688 Safety Act Talking Points o There are as many as 10,000 big cats kept in private hands, but no one knows exactly how many and where. o The exact number is a mystery because few records are kept. What we do know is that these animals should never be kept as pets. o Just weeks ago, a young woman in Dunlap, CA was attacked by an adult lion while she was cleaning his enclosure. Tragically, the young woman died, and the lion had to be killed by authorities. The incident took place at a facility that breeds and frequently transports its big cats for public display. o In the last two decades in the U.S., dangerous incidents involving big cats have resulted in 22 people being killed (including five children) and nearly 200 being mauled or otherwise injured. The numbers are likely higher as these are only the incidents widely reported by the media. o It costs at least $10,000 a year on average just to feed a big cat, and they need huge spaces to roam. Many big cat owners, even those with good intentions, quickly realize they are in over their heads. o Local law enforcement and other first responders are neither trained nor financially equipped to deal with animals the likes of a 300-pound tiger, and taxpayers must pay the cost when animals escape or otherwise jeopardize the community. o Furthermore, the USDA does not have the resources to adequately inspect big cat licensees and enforce Animal Welfare Act compliance. o Co-sponsor the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act today. Passing this bill would mean an amendment to the Captive Wildlife Safety Act to generally restrict breeding and keeping big cats (lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, and cougars) as pets. Current owners of any of these big cats would just need to register them with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bill would provide exemptions for the following: zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), wildlife sanctuaries (that do not breed or allow public handling of their animals), wildlife rehabilitators, some research and education institutions, and some traveling circuses. o Unfortunately, reform came too late to Zanesville, Ohio. That's where a backyard exotic animal owner released 38 big cats and 18 other dangerous animals and then took his own life. To protect the surrounding community, law enforcement had no choice but to kill most of the animals. We can't stand on the sideline waiting for the next incident. Don't let your neighborhood be next. You, your family, and these animals all deserve protection. o Passing this bill will finally mean that captive big cats-tigers, lions, cougars and other species-do not threaten public safety, diminish global conservation efforts, or end up living in deplorable conditions