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House Resolution (HR) 4122 and Senate Bill (SB) 3547, known as the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act,” have been introduced by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass). The passing of this legislation would better the lives of tens of thousands of Big Cats in the United States.
HR 4122 and SB 3547 will further the conservation of certain wildlife species by prohibiting the illegal trade of designated species and prohibiting the private ownership or sale of exotic animals. The legislation would prohibit individuals not equipped to care for animals from keeping them in poor living conditions and would stop the sale of these animals. Violators could face jail time of up to five years and fines of up to $20,000. (The bills also include a grandfather clause exempting animals born prior to the legislation becoming law.)
TAKE ACTION. It is critical that U.S. legislators hear from you on this important issue now. Please make a brief, polite phone call to your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators, urging support and co-sponsorship of HR 4122 and SB 3547. You can say, “As a constituent concerned about preventing cruelty to animals, I’m calling to urge you to support and co-sponsor HR 4122 [or SB 3547].”
You can also use the sample letters below to send follow-up notes to Congress urging support for these two bills.
Sample Letter for Representatives
Dear Congressman [or Congresswoman] _________,
As a constituent concerned about improving the lives of tens of thousands of Big Cats in the United States, I’m writing to urge you to support and co-sponsor HR 4122, the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.”
I strongly encourage you to do everything you can to help pass this critical legislation, which would prohibit the illegal trade of wildlife species and the private ownership or sale of exotic animals. Additionally, the bill would ban individuals from keeping the animals in poor living conditions and protect the public from dangerous situations.
I hope you will support and co-sponsor HR 4122. Thank you.
[Your Name & Address]
Sample Letter for Senators
Dear Senator __________,
As a constituent concerned about improving the lives of tens of thousands of Big Cats in the United States, I’m writing to urge you to support and co-sponsor SB 3547, the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.”
I strongly encourage you to do everything you can to help pass this critical legislation. which would prohibit the illegal trade of wildlife species and the private ownership or sale of exotic animals. Additionally, the bill would ban individuals from keeping the animals in poor living conditions and protect the public from dangerous situations.
I hope you will support and co-sponsor SB 3547. Thank you.
[Your Name and Address]
Washington, D.C., September, 2012. U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) has introduced S. 3547, the Senate companion to H.R. 4122, the House version of the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act,” aimed at prohibiting breeding and private possession of captive big cats in the United States. The House version of the bill was introduced by U.S. Reps. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) in March, 2012.
Kerry’s action comes on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Zanesville, Ohio animal massacre where the owner of a backyard collection of tigers, lions and other exotic wildlife, committed suicide after freeing the animals from their cages. Local police were forced to shoot and kill nearly 50 animals – 38 of them big cats – before they could enter populated areas.
With some states banning private ownership of big cats and other states imposing partial bans or no restrictions, current regulation of big cat possession and breeding fails to protect public safety and animal welfare.
“It’s a little hard to believe that there’s a crazy patchwork of regulations governing people who try to keep wild cats as pets. I know it sounds like something you just read about when there’s a tragic news story, but it’s all too real for first responders who respond to a 911 call and are surprised to come face to face with a Bengal tiger,” said Sen. Kerry. “This bill will ensure that these endangered creatures are kept in secure, professional facilities like wildlife sanctuaries rather than in small cages in someone’s backyard or apartment building.”
It is estimated that there are 10,000 to 20,000 big cats currently held in private ownership in the U.S. In the past two decades, more than 300 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats have resulted in the deaths of 21 people (including 5 children) and close to 250 additional humans have been mauled or injured. In addition, scores of big cats have been killed.
“We are grateful to Senator Kerry for his leadership in seeking protection of big cats and citizens,” said Tracy Coppola, IFAW Big Cat Campaign Manager. “Federal control is essential toward effectively knowing how many dangerous big cats are being kept in private hands, under what conditions, and where.”
S.3547 would make it illegal to possess any big cat except at adequate facilities such as accredited zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. Violators of the law could have their animals confiscated along with any vehicles or equipment used to aid in their activity and could face stiff penalties including fines up to $20,000 and up to five years in jail.
SOURCE: International Fund for Animal Welfare
San Diego, March 2012 – After years of discussion and debate on the plight of wild and exotic animals in the U.S., Bobbi Brink, Founder and Director of Lions Tigers & Bears Big Cat Sanctuary and Rescue (LTB) in the East County of San Diego, CA welcomes the introduction of new legislation that will help protect big cats and keep communities safe. The proposed legislation is timely following the horrific incident in Zanesville, Ohio, that left 49 wild animals dead after they were released by their owner. The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act will prohibit breeding and private possession of big cats, exempting only qualified, accredited AZA zoos and sanctuaries such as Lions Tigers & Bears, where they can be properly cared for and protected.
“This legislation is a long time coming and we were thrilled to see it introduced last month,” said Bobbi Brink, Founder and Director for Lions Tigers & Bears Big Cat Sanctuary. “We applaud Representative McKeon for bringing this bill forward, as well as Tippi Hedren for advocating with such strength to keep this effort alive.”
The Big Cat and Public Safety Protection Act ( H.R. 4122) from Congressman Buck McKeon and co-sponsored by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, was designed to ensure that lions, tigers and other dangerous big cats, which are bred to be sold and kept as pets or for financial gain in the U.S. in alarming numbers, do not threaten public safety, diminish global big cat conservation efforts, or end up living in horrible conditions where they can be subject to mistreatment and cruelty.
According to Brink, “Big cat cubs are allowed to be sold at auctions around the country or by backyard breeders to unsuspecting buyers who are attracted to the idea of owning a “big cat” as a household pet. However, in a very short time, those adorable cubs become adults, developing their natural instincts to hunt and protect, and the buyer soon turns to newspapers, exotic trade magazines, zoos, and roadside parks to find the young cat a new home – which rarely works out.
“As big cats develop, they become strong and aggressive and the buyer begins to realize that they are in trouble when someone gets hurt or threatened. They put family members, neighbors and communities in danger and in many cases, the authorities get involved and, before long, the innocent animal desperately needs a new home or is put down. ”
Due to specific federal rules, it has been difficult to determine the number of dangerous exotic big cats being kept in private hands and what their condition is in the U. S., but estimates climb into the tens of thousands. A handful of accredited sanctuaries around the country will be asked to take in the big cats once the law takes effect, to provide a safe haven where these animals will live out the rest of their natural lives.
Currently, only nine states have laws prohibiting private ownership of wild animals; the remaining states have weak or no laws in existence. This bill will require all persons who currently possess big cats to register those animals with the USDA. After the bill becomes law, it will be illegal to breed any big cat except for accredited AZA zoos, where breeding will be allowed for conservation purposes only. Violators of the law will 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 per animal, and up to five years in jail.
Tell Congress to support HR 4122 and SB 3547