We need to outnumber the bad guys NOW to stop public contact with big cats!
Please act now!!
After two years of work by a coalition of animal welfare groups, USDA has finally posted in the Federal Register for public comment a proposed rule to stop the exhibitors from exploiting infant tigers, bears and primates to make money charging people to pet them, take photos with them, or swim with them. The bad guys are on the USDA comment site now urging USDA to kill the proposed rule. What is CRITICAL now is for all of us who care about these poor cubs and infants to show USDA that the vast majority of Americans want this abuse stopped, and USDA should not listen to the greedy, selfish few who abuse these tiny cubs to make money.
These young animals are torn from their mothers at birth, physically punished to make them more docile, deprived of sleep, kept on display when sick, and, if they survive, stuck in tiny cages to languish for the rest of their lives once they are too big to pet.
The public comment period ends Oct 4 and it is critical that we overwhelm the exploiters of these animals with comments in support of adopting the rule.
We need to hugely outnumber the bad guys’ comments to win a victory for the cubs and infants! PLEASE take just a minute to stand up for these helpless young animals by following the simple steps below to let USDA know that you support their proposed rule to stop this abuse. Thank you!!
1) Click this link to go to the comment page.
If that does not work, go to www.Regulations.gov and cut and paste the number below into the search box:
If you see the box below, just click “No Thanks”
2) Click the “Comment Now!” button on the far right.
3) Fill in a brief comment asking USDA to approve this rule banning public contact and your contact information.
USDA Petition to Prohibit Public Contact with Big Cats, Bears, and Primates Factsheet
For fees ranging from $10 to $500, members of the public can pet, feed, train, pose with, play with, and even swim with wild and exotic animals. Baby tigers, lions, and bears are frequently used by unscrupulous exhibitors for public handling, typically until they are just a few months old. The animals are then often discarded, with some ending up warehoused at poorly run roadside zoos and pseudo-sanctuaries or in the hands of unqualified people with private menageries. Some animals used temporarily for public handling, such as black bears and African lions, may even be slaughtered for the exotic meat market. More babies must be continually produced to fuel this lucrative business. Due to the varied sizes of primates, large animals such as chimpanzees may be used for public handling until they are about 7 years old, while smaller monkeys, such as capuchins, may be subjected to such mistreatment for their entire 30-plus year lifespan.
The cycle of breeding, exploiting, and then dumping baby animals after a few months fuels the exotic pet trade, puts animals at risk, endangers the public, and creates a burden for both law enforcement and sanctuaries.
While exhibition of animals is regulated by the USDA, public handling of these animals is largely unmonitored. USDA enforcement policies currently allow the harmful practice of handling infant animals to flourish. A coalition of 7 groups is calling on the USDA to issue revised regulations that prohibit public contact and unsafe close encounters with big cats, bears, and primates, regardless of the animals’ age.
Danger to the Public
- Even young big cats, bears, and primates have sharp teeth and claws that can inflict serious injury.
- Wild animals can transmit diseases to people. Primates can spread dangerous viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections and a number of tiger cubs used for photo ops with the public have been found to be infected with ringworm.
- The surplus of dangerous animals created by reckless breeding for public contact exhibition threatens public safety because former photo props are warehoused in roadside zoos and backyards around the country.
Maternal Deprivation and Stress to Infant Animals
- To facilitate public handling, the animals are pulled from the nurturing care of their protective mothers shortly after birth—a cruel and unhealthy practice that can lead to lifelong physical and psychological problems and even death.
- Most accredited zoos long ago stopped the unhealthy practice of pulling newborn tigers, bears, primates, and other animals from their mothers because they realize that it can make animals sick and causes behavioral problems—yet this barbaric practice continues in roadside zoos that use tiger, lion, and bear cubs, as well as primates, for playing, petting, and photo sessions with the public. It’s long overdue for federal regulations to catch up with industry best practices.
- It is well established that primates raised without the care and companionship of their own species develop into mentally disturbed individuals with self-destructive and aberrant behaviors.
- Removing newborn animals from their mothers is traumatic for both the mother, who mourns the loss of her offspring, as well as the baby who is deprived of proper nutrition and maternal care.
- Traveling zoos haul these vulnerable newborn animals around the country in cramped cages and poorly ventilated trailers for appearances at malls, schools, fairs, festivals, conventions, and flea markets.
- Young animals who are not yet fully immunized may be exposed to deadly diseases.
- Infant animals with weak immune systems are being subjected to stressful conditions associated with transport, rough and excessive public handling, as well as physical abuse from handlers attempting to keep playful or reluctant animals under control.
- These mass breeding operations assume no responsibility for the lifetime care of the animals they produce. Some discarded animals end up warehoused in roadside zoos or sold into the pet trade while others fall victim to exotic meat markets. For example, Wild Acres Ranch provides cubs for photos with the public at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio, and later sells meat from slaughtered black bears and African lions.
- Similar to how animal shelters deal with problems created by puppy mills, accredited sanctuaries for wild animals are shouldering the burden created by an industry that continuously breeds and dumps long-lived animals with specialized, costly needs. For example, it costs up to $10,000 per year to provide food and veterinary care for a single tiger. An Ohio rescue operation that went out of business earlier this year had taken in at least six lions and one tiger discarded by public contact exhibitors.
- Conservationists fear that surplus tigers and bears discarded by cub-petting operations may end up fueling the illegal market for animal parts used in traditional Asian medicine.
- People who are allowed to handle exotic animals are inspired to acquire wild animals as pets. The public is also left with the dangerous and inaccurate perception that deadly predators who are captive-bred and hand-reared will grow into docile, friendly animals.
- Studies confirm that seeing humans interact with endangered animals leads people to falsely believe that these animals are not threatened or endangered in the wild.
- Members of the public who pay to handle and pose with wild animals are often deceived into believing the funds go towards rescue or conservation efforts.
- The frivolous captive breeding of tigers and other animals by public contact exhibitors is done without regard to lineage and genetic diversity, resulting in inbreeding that produces animals who suffer from serious congenital defects and cross-breeding of animals to produce curiosities such as “ligers” (a cross between a lion and a tiger.)
Frequently Asked Questions
How big is the problem?
The HSUS has uncovered evidence that at least 70 exhibitors currently or recently engaged in the harmful practice of allowing the public to handle big cats, bears, and/or primates. Records also show that extraordinarily young animals, such as tigers who are only a few days old, are being transported to exhibitors for purposes of public handling.
Why aren’t elephants included in the petition?
Public contact with elephants, such as offering elephant rides, is extremely dangerous. Elephants have rampaged with children sitting on their back, been gunned down in city streets, and can infect humans with tuberculosis. Elephants are not included in this petition because their use in entertainment is declining. Unfortunately, the use of other animals, such as tiger cubs, is escalating with exhibitors coming up with new ways to mistreat and exploit these animals, such as offering “swim with” programs with tiger cubs.
What is the process with the federal petition?
The USDA will review the information and make a determination. If the agency decides to revise regulations, a notice will be published in the federal register, with stakeholders and members of the public invited to submit comments. The agency will review the comments and make its final decision. The process can take years.