IFAW applauds Arkansas ban on private ownership of lions, tigers and bears

Thursday, 21 April, 2005
Yarmouth Port, MA
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org) announced today the passage of Arkansas house Bill 2681, which prohibits the ownership of certain dangerous, exotic pets, such as lions, tigers or bears. Arkansas now joins 23 other states in banning the ownership of exotic animals, including big cats.
“We applaud the Arkansas legislators who voted to pass this bill and particularly House Representative Phillip Jackson who originally introduced it, for their wisdom and foresight in protecting the public by prohibiting people from owning dangerous, wild and exotic animals,” said Josephine Martell, IFAW Campaign Officer.

Across the United States, legislators have come to recognize that private ownership of dangerous exotic animals is a national public safety threat. State legislation is currently being considered in several states, including Oregon, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio, and Missouri. However, 19 states have little or no regulations regarding private ownership of exotic animals, and eight states have absolutely no regulations or laws regarding the private ownership of exotic animals including big cats.

Tigers and other big cats such as lions, cheetahs, leopards and panthers, are being kept as pets in the United States in increasingly large numbers. There are an estimated 10,000 tigers in private ownership in the Unites States, with only 5,000 living in the wild.

“Big cats are animals that are born to be wild and should not be kept in backyards, basements or private homes,” said Sarah Tyack, IFAW Deputy Director. “Owning exotic pets is cruel to animals and dangerous to people.”

In 2004, there were 39 big cat incidents including one death, 11 injuries and 26 escapes in the United States alone. Since 1990, captive tigers have killed at least 11 people in the U.S. and mauled at least 70 more. In January 2005, near Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a Bengal tiger was set loose by its owner and spent four days in the wilderness before being captured. In November 2004, a tiger pulled the flesh off the hand of a woman at the Wilderness Drive through Safari in Gentry Arkansas. In September 2002, four lions are shot after running loose in Quitman, Arkansas.

IFAW has been working hard to encourage stronger state and federal legislation designed to prevent the needless suffering of captive wild animals and protect people from possible harm. With the urging of IFAW, Congress passed the Captive Wildlife Safety Act In 2004 banning interstate trade of big cats. In Arkansas, IFAW provided valuable expert testimony and provided case studies and big cat statistics to government leaders in both the House and Senate.

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