It is a given fact that the majority of people spend a lot of time on the internet. It is a sign of the times and at times a wonderful innovative way to research things such as political issues, the latest news, research for an assignment, or even shop. The problem is though that people are under the impression that if it is on the internet, then by golly “It must be true!” Reminds me of that Allstate commercial!
When the Zanesville tragedy happened the general population and politicians went nuts! They cried out for justice for the animals. And rightly so as the animals were the true victims. There were fifty six animals shot dead. I will not go into whether I feel it was justified or not as everyone probably knows, I am for the animals. I personally know a lot of details that was not released to the general public, and for a true account one might want to read the book “Eighteen Days to the Massacre” by Teresa Headly. There is a lot of misinformation out there.
The one thing on that ordeal that puzzled me was why was the three leopards (one of which the zoo accidentally killed), two rare Macque monkeys and the bear not released? The leopards are by far the most dangerous if frightened and the most valuable, the Macque’s were rare and valuable and I have no idea why not the bear.
A lot of sanctuaries and animal rights organizations are pushing for an all out ban on the “private ownership” of all big cats. Organizations such a Born Free, HSUS, PETA, Big Cat Rescue, Shambala Preserve just to mention a few. The sanctuaries are mostly private owners that went to becoming a rescue/sanctuary. But one must be wary and research ALL of these people and organizations and then one will find the ultimate agenda. The end of all exotics, especially big cats in the United States. One would ask themselves why? Well in this authors opinion, it all boils down to one thing. MONEY.
Face it. People often romanticize a big cat and yes it is too easy to endear oneself with these magnificent animals! I know that I was totally AGAINST ANY Leopards coming here.. until that little black ball of hissing fur arrived, that today is known as Fury. She is what prompted me to stay abreast of the law, to fight for her wild relatives in another country and to stand fast for my right to do so.
The facts on the ramifications of big cat ban laws:
1. We ALREADY have laws in several states that regulate native and exotic wildlife. Here in Florida, you cannot be a “pet owner” but must now be either an educational facility, circus, zoo or sanctuary. You must have acreage such as five acres with a barrier width between you and your closest neighbor. Things such as lock downs, lock outs, perimeter fencing (our place is looks like fort knox LOL) , must be insured and BONDED. So although these are tight regulations.. they are doable and not without merit. I believe in my right to own these animals but I also believe in the safety of both the public and the animals. This latter part I will address later in this blog.
2. Ban laws would stop any breeding of big cats. Well right there would be the end of hope for my passion. The Asian Leopard. We do NOT sell our cats. We breed and they remain here as part of a gene pool ready and willing to help in any way we can. Currently we have five Asian Leopards but only four are of reproductive value. The general population of big cat owners hold a vast diverse gene pool of many rare and endangered species
3. Ban laws will NOT reduce any of the reported illegal exotic pet trade. In fact it is a proven fact that once you make something illegal, you create a criminal element. These criminals will go underground and there will be no accounting on them. This jeopardizes both the general public and the animals.
4. Ban Laws will eradicate places like mine. The laws they are trying to pass only exclude either the AZA (Association of Zoo’s and Aquariums) which has NO legal powers to punish but is an accreditation organization. They set the guidelines on what they can display and judge on the looks and scheme of the zoo, and the GFAS ( Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries which is also an accreditation organization with no powers to punish but merely take away the accreditation) neither of which I would EVER join on principle alone. For starters I don’t believe the government should force you to join and pay an exorbitant amount of money to a private entity that you may or may not agree with, and secondly I am the Vice President of the USZA (United Zoological Association) which I will have accredit me. And NO they do NOT cut any members any slack. WE POLICE OUR OWN AND WITHIN!
5. Ban laws will create a lot of financial crisis. Think about this. You have the toy makers for these animals, the food (yes there are commercial diets) the vets that specialize in the big cats will lose a good amount of income, the paid staff, the medical supply industry and the list goes on. This may sound trivial but in reality it will add up.
6. Ban laws will make criminals out of law abiding citizens and cost the tax payers more money. Instead of passing ban laws, how about ENFORCING THE REGULATIONS already in place? Instead of eradicating rare and endangered species, and peoples RIGHT to have them responsibly, help by RESEARCHING the facts.
I am a member of one of the best organizations that I know. The USZA is still in it’s birth years, but has done MORE by far in my opinion than a lot of other accrediting organizations!! They have pitched in and instead of attacking a facility they have reached out to the owners of a facility that asked for help, and HELPED THEM. They have rescued numerous animals that have been displaced by these ban laws that are sweeping the states because of ill informed representatives that listened to parties that have an agenda. I knew Florida was in trouble when Senator Bill Nelson stated (and I quote) “That a large female python (I forgot but he did give the length) that on autopsy (in medical animal language it is called a necropsy) had eggs that were ready to hatch”. Umm.. they have to LAY the clutch, set them and THEN they hatch. But this is truly not his fault. He has been listening to the likes of HSUS and others of that nature and is sorely mis informed. Problem is that I don’t think he is willing to listen to the other side. With the python issue, few people realize that the snakes in the everglades were NOT all released by private owners. It was not publicized a lot but there was facilities down in South Florida that bred these snakes and they were obliterated by Hurricane Andrew. No the Pythons do NOT belong in the glades, but this omission of a few facts added to the agenda of yet another exotic not allowed to be owned by private owners nor sold across the state lines which killed a big industry.
In the words of a veterinarian that I not only worked for, but admired, Ronald Burk, DVM , as I was lamenting about a woman that was spending her money on treatment for her rat… ” WHO are YOU to tell HER what she animal she can love?!” To YOU that is just a rat. but to her that is her pet, her love” WHAT A REALITY CHECK FOR ME! And the start of really being open minded to the fact that we are not all made from the same cookie cutter and I needed to respect that.
Did you know that in 2012, there were SEVENTEEN sky diving FATALITIES in the United States alone. Did you hear of these? My guess is probably not and yet you do NOT see anyone beating the drum to stop sky diving. How many big cat fatalities happened last year? ZERO.
The only time there is injury to a person with a big cat is when that person has knowingly put themselves into contact with the animal. In other words, people such as us, keepers, or people that wanted to get up close and personal. The only incident where a big cat has escaped and killed anyone was the incident where the people were taunting the tigress for HOURS and she scaled the wall and hunted them down. This was a revenge kill and at an AZA accredited zoo. A great place for the statistics is here: http://www.rexano.org/Statistics/Captive_big_cat_fatality.pdf
Which brings me to my final point. Having an accreditation does not make that facility any different than a private owner or organization. A cage is a cage.. call it an enclosure for political correctness, but a cage is a cage. These cats are now being displaced at an alarming rate from homes that they have been at all their lives. And trust me when I say, that stress is the number one killer of exotics. You cannot rip an animal away from the only person that it has bonded to (and they do bond and bond HARD to their person!) and throw it into a situation where many times is “no touch” when the animal is used to a soft hand and a kind voice…
If you love big cats… oppose ALL big cat ban laws, both state and federal! THE CATS NEED YOU!!
” What man does not understand he fears. What he fears he destroys”