Action Needed: speak out against public handling of big cats

Tiger awaiting rescue in Texas

By | August 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm | No comments | Blog, News, Wildcat News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)

Take a stand and help prevent the public handling of big cats!  They need your voice!

It’s no secret that one of the biggest problems fueling the U.S. big cat trade is the fact that dozens of traveling zoos and roadside exhibitors, including many USDA-licensed facilities, regularly profit from charging the public a fee to pet, play with and take photos with tiger cubs and other big cats.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)’s big cat database provides a map of exhibitors who currently advertise these types of interactive opportunities online. Tragically, some exhibitors even allow the public to swim with big cat cubs, forcing the animals into water in order to make even more profit.

To the frustration of many caring animal advocates these activities are, for the most part, legal, because of an informal rule created by the USDA to only prohibit contact with cubs under 8 weeks old when their immune systems are still developing and when they are over 12 weeks old when they are dangerous.

The result is a 4 week window during which it is legal for the public to handle big cats, so hundreds of cubs are born each year to supply these profit-making schemes.

Sadly, some members of the public are manipulated by the exhibitors into thinking that these opportunities contribute to big cat conservation and rescue.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

What happens to a poor cub when he gets bigger, stronger, more dangerous and less profitable?

That is the big unknown—but all too often, it will come down to this: he will be kept in someone’s backyard; he will be sent to a roadside zoo; he will be incessantly bred to further fuel the cub handling trade; or he will simply be killed.

There is no reason why any member of the public should ever come in contact with wild animals and their cubs.

You now have the opportunity to let USDA know you object to this inhumane and dangerous trade.

In recognition of the one-year anniversary of the Zanesville tragedy, last October IFAW joined the Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare organizations as co-petitioner of a petition for rulemaking that urges the USDA to ban all public contact with big cats and certain other exotic species.

Thankfully, the agency has made the petition available for public comment.

From now until October 4, please take a moment to urge USDA to create a rule that finally prohibits all public contact with big cats and other species.

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

Tanya Espinosa (301) 851-4092
Suzanne Bond (301) 851-4070

USDA Requests Comments on a Petition to Amend the AWA to Prohibit Public Contact with Big Cats, Bears, and Nonhuman Primates

WASHINGTON, August 5, 2013 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is requesting public comments on a petition received from a group of animal welfare stakeholders that requests amendments to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations.  APHIS has been delegated authority to enforce the AWA by the Secretary of Agriculture, who was granted the power to enforce the AWA by Congress under that Act.  The AWA requires, among other things, the humane handling, care, treatment and transportation of certain animals by dealers, research facilities, exhibitors, operators of auction sales, carriers, and intermediate handlers.

The petition requests that the AWA regulations prohibit public contact with big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates of any age.  This petition is also requesting that the regulations be amended to prohibit the public handling and separation from their dams before weaning unless medically necessary of young or immature big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates.

APHIS is also requesting comments on the following questions:

  • Are there circumstances under which public contact with young big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates may be done without risk of harm to the animals or to the public?
  • Should exhibitors and dealers be required to keep records other than those already required and if so, what information should be required?
  • Should exhibitors and dealers be required to identify big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates by use of tattoos, microchips, retinal scan or other means?

This notice is published in today’s Federal Register. Consideration will be given to comments received on or before October 4, 2013. Please send your postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2012-0107, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. If you wish to submit a comment using the Internet go to the Federal eRulemaking portal!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2012-0107-0001.

Comments are posted on the website and may also be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. To facilitate entry into the comment reading room, please call 202-799-7039.

Note to Reporters: USDA news releases, program announcements, and media advisories are available on the
Internet and through Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds. Go to the APHIS news release page at and click on the RSS feed link.

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