Tired antic on The Hill distracts from the real issue at hand

Privately owned big cats in captivity. Image source: https://bigcatrescue.org/Wednesday, September 18 marked the 2013 annual International Conservation Caucus Foundation Gala in Washington, D.C.

Coinciding with the event was a “special” photo op on the Hill, led by Congressman Don Young (R-AK), long-time member of the National Resources Committee. Young invited curious Congressional staffers to pose and cuddle with a tiger cub, baby chimp, and a bald eagle, all courtesy of the “Rare Species Fund”, which is directed by a big cat breeder and exhibitor who strongly opposes The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.

Events like this are made possible because of regulatory loopholes like the one I described in August, where, at 8-12 weeks a big cat is supposedly neither too young nor too old for the USDA to prohibit exhibitors from operating roadside attractions, traveling zoos, and other lucrative ventures that encourage people to touch and hold the animals .. On Wednesday, the 2-month-old tiger cub displayed at the Hill event might have been showered with attention by undoubtedly well-intentioned Congressional staffers manipulated by their love for animals.

But, like with all exotic animals forced into profit-making schemes, it’s not as simple as that. What happens to a poor cub when he gets bigger, stronger, more dangerous and less profitable? A mere month from now, she could easily be cast off to someone’s backyard, sent to a roadside zoo, bred… and who knows what else.

I doubt the staffers had any idea.

This is where you come into play—we need to make sure Congress, and the public at large, knows the truth: Rhetoric that boasts how these types of photo ops and exhibits contribute toward international wildlife conservation activities couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, they are manipulative efforts to shut down critically-needed reform.

At IFAW, we’re working tirelessly to ensure a better life for captive big cats in the U.S.


We need your help. Ask your U.S. Senator and Rep. to pass the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act and take time to comment on an important USDA petition to prohibit all contact with big cats and other species, regardless of age.

PS: Take a moment to read “Big Cats Are Not Pets” by Ira Fischer, an attorney who devotes his retirement to the cause of animal welfare through advocacy. 

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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