Panel including Tippi Hedren, Joely Fisher addresses big cat issues at packed LA forum

The author with fellow panelists Bobbi Brink, Tippi Hedren, Joely Fisher, and Tim Harrison.At IFAW, our vision is a world where animals like tigers, lions and other big cats are respected and protected. This is why we are working to pass the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act(H.R. 1998/S.1381), a bill that would phase out possession and breeding of big cats in private hands nationwide. 

While this campaign is a top priority for IFAW, we realize that it could not exist without the voice of citizen advocates. Whenever I meet with a member of Congress on the Hill, I never lose sight of this fact. It’s always inspiring to meet face-to-face with first responders, sanctuaries, and others who are directly impacted by this issue, care deeply about animal welfare, and are pushing hard for reform. 

This past Saturday (March 29) in Los Angeles, IFAW hosted a successful public forum at the wonderful National Museum of Animals and Society, where we had the honor of once again meeting with individuals who want to change the way so many captive big cats are treated in the United States. 

California has a strong ban on keeping big cats as pets, but, like many states, it still exempts USDA exhibitors across the board—a big loophole. 

After all, we will never forget the USDA-licensed facility called “Tiger Rescue” that operated for years in Colton, California until 30 dead adult tigers and close to 60 dead cubs were found on the property, along with dozens barely alive. The solution to the many heart-breaking realities facing captive big cats in the U.S. is the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. 

We need to lift this burden off of the big cats languishing in substandard facilities across the country, off of our first responders, and off of the frightened communities like in Ventura County, California, where, just recently, IFAW spoke out against a proposal being debated on whether or not to allow tigers to be kept in a residential area for use by the film industry. 

Panelist Bobbi Brink speaks to a packed house including IFAW CEO Azzedine Downes.

Along with my fellow panelists Tippi Hedren (Founder/President, Roar Foundation), Tim Harrison (Director, Outreach for Animals and IFAW public safety consultant), and Bobbi Brink (Founder/Director of Lions, Tigers & Bears), I spoke to a packed house that included IFAW President and CEO Azzedine Downes; IFAW celebrity ambassadors Joely Fisher and Billy McNamara; representatives of Congressmembers Buck McKeon (R-CA-25), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46), Adam Schiff (D-CA-28) and Janice Hahn (D-CA-44); County of San Diego Department of Animal Services; City of Los Angeles management, and advocates from throughout the state and beyond!

County of San Diego Department of Animal Services team member Jennifer Hill and the author.

Attendees got the experience of hearing from our partners who, like IFAW’s animal rescue team, continually see firsthand the many victims of the captive big cat trade—including first responders —and to hear our rally call for change. They also got a special treat from Ms. Fisher, who is not only a gorgeous actress but a compassionate, committed advocate. Along with her husband, Chris Duddy, she has generously donated her time and talent to produce a series of compelling “PROTECT” PSAs for IFAW. This was the first time anyone had seen the tiger PSA, and it made the event even more exciting!

A National Museum of Animals and Society board member and the author hold the resolution from Mayor Garcetti and the entire L.A. City Council.

I was also thrilled to share the gorgeous resolution from the City of Los Angeles in honor of IFAW’s captive big cat work, which is signed by L.A. Mayor Garcetti and the entire L.A. City Council. Many thanks to District 13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell for working with me on this special privilege!

Many thanks to the National Museum of Animals and Society and to all the other wonderful advocates who attended the forum to support passage of the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act and who will urge their Congressmember to co-sponsor the bill. Stay tuned for more public forums to come!

--TC

P.S: Visit www.ifaw.org/bigcatadvocates to learn more about IFAW’s work to protect captive big cats.

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