Recently initiated bill would end public contact with big cats in New York

IFAW commends Assembly Member Rosenthal for her leadership on animal welfare and public safety and urges the New York legislature to swiftly pass A09004 this session.Momentum for the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act continues, with a record 89 co-sponsors in the House, and an upcoming briefing at the Museum of Animals & Society in Los Angeles.

As a means toward building even more momentum on IFAW’s leadership role in protecting big cats from the pet and roadside zoo trade, I have been working on an initiative in New York aimed at prohibiting direct contact between members of the public and tigers, lions and other dangerous wild animals owned by licensed dealers and exhibitors throughout the state. I’m very happy to report that the bill (A09004) was introduced last Friday by New York State Assemblymember and longtime animal welfare champion, Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan)!

Although 30 states, including New York, have strong bans on keeping big cats and other dangerous wild animals as pets, they do not ban public contact. This loophole is why we continue to see certain individuals, including some USDA-licensed facilities, regularly advertise opportunities for the public to hold, take photos with, and otherwise interact with these animals at roadside zoos. When these animals get stronger and more dangerous, and after they are bred and inbred to supply more cubs, they are often shipped to someone’s backyard, sent to another roadside zoo, or may even be killed.

It defies logic that any member of the public should be allowed to ever come in direct contact with wild animals of any age, and this dangerous and inhumane practice could ever be called “conservation”. This needs to stop.

In the press release we issued yesterday, Assemblymember Rosenthal said it best: “Though the photos may be cute, and the animals may look sweet and fluffy, they are dangerous wild animals capable of serious violence, and the public should not be permitted to come into such close contact with them. Though some claim that these photo ops contribute to wildlife rescue or conservation, that’s empty rhetoric that disregards the real danger here; my bill will protect the public and help keep big cats and other wild animals in safe conditions.”

IFAW commends Assembly Member Rosenthal for her leadership on animal welfare and public safety and urges the New York legislature to swiftly pass A09004 this session.

--TC

Update:  A Senate companion to this bill (S. 6903) was just introduced by Senator Tony Avella (D-Bayside)! If you live in NY, ask your Assemblymember and Senator to co-sponsor the bill today.

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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Gail A'Brunzo, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Manager
Wildlife Rescue Manager, IFAW HQ
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia