Big cats in the US: two more victims, in less than 24 hours

If you are in Ohio on July 2, please attend IFAW’s Big Cat Forum at 10 a.m. at the Statehouse in Columbus.The end of last week marked a particularly tragic and frightening time for big cats and public safety in Indiana, a state that allows people to keep big cats as pets as long as they have a permit.

On Friday afternoon, a tiger at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center—a non-profit sanctuary providing lifelong care to abandoned, neglected, and displaced big cats from all over the country—attacked a keeper as she attempted to clean its enclosure. According to the Clay County Sheriff’s office, officials report that the door to the holding area did not get shut all the way, allowing the tiger to attack when the worker entered the area. Thankfully, trained workers put to practice the center’s emergency plan, and the woman was rescued and rushed to the hospital.

And just the night before, residents in Clark County who worried their pets were going to be attacked by native wildlife ended up shooting and killing what turned out to be a leopard prowling outside their home.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is now trying to figure out to whom the animal belonged and where it came from, but believes the leopard must have been someone’s escaped pet since the species is not native to North America.

In less than two decades, twenty-two people have been killed and nearly 200 more have been attacked by captive big cats in the U.S. Keeping big cats as “pets” or for profit, and casting them away to sanctuaries once the novelty runs off, needs to stop. If it doesn’t, more communities, more sanctuaries, and more first responders will continue to bear a dangerous burden. We need a national solution.

In light of last week’s events, I especially implore all Indiana residents to ask their Congressional Representatives to co-sponsor the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (H.R. 1998) today.

Lastly, if you are in Ohio on July 2, please attend IFAW’s Big Cat Forum at 10 a.m. at the Statehouse in Columbus.

Among the speakers advocating for passage of the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act will be myself, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Program Officer Kelly Donithan, and Tim Harrison, director of Outreach for Animals and a Dayton-based public safety officer at the forefront of rescuing big cats and other exotic animals across the nation.

--TC

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