Keeping a closer eye on the tigers

By imposing minimum reporting requirements on the owners of all tigers – not just purebreds -- authorities create the threat of future inspection and monitoring of the treatment and conditions of these animals. This will help ensure that basic living needs—exercise, ample living space, specific diet and temperature controls—are met.The U.S.

By imposing minimum reporting requirements on the owners of all tigers – not just purebreds -- authorities create the threat of future inspection and monitoring of the treatment and conditions of these animals. This will help ensure that basic living needs—exercise, ample living space, specific diet and temperature controls—are met.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is currently deciding whether or not to close a loophole exempting private owners of "hybrid" or "generic" tigers from registering their animals under Captive-Bred Wildlife CBW regulations.

The exemption has prevented the U.S. government from having a full understanding of the scope and scale of private ownership of these big cats in this country – and that has lead to dangerous holes in our human safety and animal welfare standards. Without reporting requirements, information like the owners’ whereabouts, the number of tigers in possession, the state of the tigers’ living conditions and when and how the tigers die remain unknown.

In turn, the overall treatment of these animals remains dubious because the existence of the individual animals is not even on record. By imposing minimum reporting requirements on the owners of all tigers – not just purebreds -- authorities create the threat of future inspection and monitoring of the treatment and conditions of these animals. This will help ensure that basic living needs—exercise, ample living space, specific diet and temperature controls—are met. Tigers are also inherently dangerous predators that require strict supervision to protect public safety.

A reporting mechanism would help the USFWS to identify repeat violators of either human safety or animal welfare standards. It would also serve to put local medical and emergency first-responders on alert should they need to enter a location which houses a privately-owned big cat during an emergency. Generic tigers may even be entering the international illegal wildlife market without attracting any government attention. Increasing the supply of tiger products in the international markets could subsequently increase demand for black market tiger products, and have devastating effects on wild tiger populations.

Reporting births, deaths, transfers, and location of tigers will give USFWS an inventory of the animals, further assisting efforts to ensure these animals aren’t feeding the illegal black market. Eliminating the exemption would greatly improve oversight of captive tigers in the U.S. and help safeguard wild tiger populations, while potentially protecting wild tigers from poaching, and captive ones from living in inhumane conditions. We require a license for guns and other dangerous items. Why wouldn’t we require someone housing a live tiger to register it?

Tigers in the wrong hands are just as dangerous as a firearm—and even more unpredictable. It’s just common-sense for this loophole to be closed. --JF

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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