A victory for tiger cubs this holiday season

Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals ‘love’ them.  But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more.” 

Edwin Way Teale, Naturalist and Pulitzer-prizing winning writer

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits contact with tiger, lion, and other big cat cubs under 8 weeks old while their immune systems are still developing.  The USDA also prohibits contact with cubs over 12 weeks old because they are dangerous to the public. Unfortunately, the unintended result is a four week period of the cubs life during which it is perfectly legal for the public to pet them. 

Because of this, dozens of traveling zoos and roadside exhibitors are exploiting this loophole and profiting from charging the public a fee to pet, play with, and pose with tiger cubs and other big cats.  And this raises serious animal welfare concerns.

As the cub handling industry has evolved, it has shown a systemic culture of inhumane mistreatment of the cubs. Cubs used in petting exhibits are prematurely taken from their mothers. The cubs are then typically confined in small cages, transported to unfamiliar settings and handled for long periods of time by scores of people in order to make the most profit for the exhibitor.

The constant handling disrupts the cubs’ need to sleep long hours and the stress frequently induces diarrhea and other symptoms of maltreatment.  It also opens them up to diseases that can be transferred from humans, from other animals, or even from other animals that humans have been in contact with.

Recently, a notorious cub exhibitor with a history of abuse planned on having a 10 day long “holiday exhibit” of live tiger cubs at Centerpointe Mall in Grand Rapids, MI. Usually, droves of people would stand in line, pay a fee to pet these baby tigers and pose happily beside the writhing cubs, not realizing the miserable lives the animals have to endure for this brief photo opportunity. However, today is a day for celebrating a great victory for tiger cubs!

These cubs won’t have to suffer the stress of continual public handling this holiday season, thanks to Centerpointe Mall’s quick response to the public’s concern for the cubs.

In direct response to a planned protest, the mall’s general manager, James Fowler, asked the handlers to leave, and that’s just what they did. Right away, the cages were emptied and all the animals were removed.  

IFAW would like to commend Centerpointe Mall’s praiseworthy choice to stop cub petting at their location. Other malls should follow this example and disallow cub petting displays as well.

Closing down all “petting for profit” operations should be a priority for the USDA – the US government agency charged with the care of privately owned animals. Until then, we will celebrate victories like the one in Grand Rapids and hope that others malls make the right choice to banish shameful cub petting exhibitors as well.

-- JF

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