A.9004-C/S.6903-C, a bill prohibiting public contact with Big Cats, has passed both Houses of New York’s legislature and awaits action by Governor Cuomo. The Wildcat Sanctuary joins IFAW, HSUS, Born Free USA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Wildlife Conservation Society urging his swift signing and passage of this very important bill.
According to Holly Francisco, New York’s Capitol Office Director, there are “many individuals across our state (and the entire country) who (quite often illegally) obtain a lion/tiger or some other Big Cat and set up a small zoo-like operation. These individuals rarely have the expertise or the facilities necessary to properly care for these animals and are merely assuming this responsibility in order to exploit the creature and make money off of public interaction with it. These operations encourage illegal trade and breeding of these animals as well as require a constant influx of cubs, resulting in more unmanageable and unwanted adult cats down the line. We believe that by prohibiting physical contact with the public, the monetary incentive is lost and many fewer individuals will choose to operate one of these facilities.”
Though the proposed Big Cat and Public Safety Protection Act still sits before Congress, New York has decided not to wait for the federal government to act. The stakes are too high. They have passed A.9004-C/S.6903-C, a bill you can view HERE.
Today, The Wildcat Sanctuary sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, explaining the need for this bill and encouraging his immediate action (see below). We hope you will add your voice by contacting the Governor’s officer HERE,
asking for his signature.
July 21, 2014
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
State Capitol – 2nd Floor
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo,
As a stakeholder in the issues covered by A.9004-C/S.6903-C, which prohibits direct contact between the general public and dangerous big cats, we urge your swift signing of this bill. The time for passing a bill regulating public contact with deadly carnivores is long overdue and we applaud New York for taking this initiative.
We are currently home to over 100 wild cats that, for many tragic reasons, have been in need of rescue. We have had to take several in from New York. Our life-saving work has helped cats from 29 states, including your state, and two countries.
As of 2012, there were an estimated 10,000 – 20,000 big cats in private hands – and that number continues to climb as owners continue breeding them for profit. It may seem surprising that 95% of all tigers in the United States are privately owned. But, as with most industries driven by profit, public interaction opportunities are fueling this breeding and spike in private ownership.
With so little regulation in place, exotic and big cat ownership has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry. When a baby tiger cub can be purchased for less than a purebred dog, we have a serious problem on our hands. We’ve seen, over and over again, how easily big cats can be bought by most anyone at auctions, from backyard breeders, on the illegal black market, via internet brokers, stolen from their natural wild habitats, or picked up as discarded surplus from zoos, roadside attractions, game ranches, etc. Case in point was when New York’s Catskill Game Farm closed down, auctioning off almost 1000 animals to fates unknown – including canned hunting facilities and private exhibitors.
At first cute and cuddly and able to draw in the petting/photo op crowds, the tigers cubs so easily obtained soon grow into dangerous carnivores. All too often, with the mounting expenses of caring for them and with the danger they present, they’re destined to life in a backyard cage under deplorable conditions. There are few rehoming options for them and there will never be enough sanctuaries to take in all these unwanted big cats.
Besides ending the rampant breeding caused by the public contact market, S. 6902 will also help assure public safety. Since 2000, 21 people have died and 246 have been mauled by exotic cats. Captive tigers alone have killed at least 12 people in the US and mauled over 75 more. There have been 253 escapes, 143 big cat deaths and 131 confiscations. Yet, there are still many states that refuse to require even a permit or license in order to buy a big cat. As recently as June of 2011, only 21 states ban private ownership of exotics, 8 states have a partial ban, and 13 states require a permit or license.
By signing this bill, New York will be taking a giant step forward with much needed legislation in this area. Your state will be bringing greater control to a largely unregulated practice. We look forward to your swift passage of this bill.
Founder and Executive Director
The Wildcat Sanctuary
PO Box 314
Sandstone MN 55072
Sanctuary – 320-245-6871