First-ever first responder forum for big cats in Ohio shows promise

The author and IFAW's Kelly Donithan stand with two first responders ready to protect the big cats!On July 2, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) led a successful big cats forum at the Ohio Statehouse Building in Columbus.

The event was particularly special because it kicked off IFAW’s first-ever national rally call to police officers, veterinarians, firefighters, EMTs, emergency and natural disaster management, and other first responders. The end-goal: a robust national coalition of first responders who expressly support the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (H.R. 1998).

First responders are an incredibly important voice for the bill that will help us build even greater momentum this Congress.

Tim Harrison, IFAW big cats public safety consultant and former police officer, helped us put together a wonderful panel of first responders with big cats experience, including: Bobbi Brink, Founder/Director of Lions, Tigers & Bears; Dr. Daniel Brauer, DVM, Dayton South Veterinary Clinic; Dr. Roger Pacholka, M.D., Miami; and Tammy Thies Executive Director of The Wildcat Sanctuary.

Tim, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Program Officer Kelly Donithan and I were also lead panelists.Forum participants talk action in Columbus, OH.

After each of our presentations, the panel read from statements written by a host first responders around the nation, each expressing solid support for the bill.

First responders continue to bear a massive burden due to the U.S. big cats crisis—they did well before Zanesville, and to this day. The fact that, on top of what they already do, these professionals have to risk their lives responding to a person killed or mauled by a big cat, or after a big cat escapes, is an unacceptable and unfair waste of their resources.

Passage of Ohio's Dangerous Wild Animals Act last year was a big first step in addressing reality for Ohioans, but we need a nationwide policy on private possession of big cats. We need to lift this burden off of our first responders. After all, they didn’t become first responders because they wanted to shoot a tiger or chase a lion down a highway.

Example signage and name tags from the event point to the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act currently under consideration.

Many thanks to the officers from the City of Oakwood as well as the humane law enforcement officers, sanctuary advocates, HSUS Ohio, veterinary students and other wonderful professionals who attended the forum and supported today’s first responder rally for the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act—the first of what promises to be many more to come.

--TC

To learn more about our efforts to protect big cats in the US, visit our campaign page!

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