New Regulations Limit Tiger Trade

Tuesday, 31 January, 2006
Yarmouth Port, MA
Today the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) published proposed rules under the Captive Wildlife Safety Act (CWSA) limiting the trade in big cats such as lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars and cougars, which have become increasingly popular pets for Americans. IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare), which played a central role in the passage of the CWSA, expressed deep concern about the lack of enforcement mechanisms and inadequate safety measures in the new regulations.
“These draft regulations are a good first step, but only address public contact with dangerous animals at licensed wildlife sanctuaries. IFAW will be working to ensure animals and people are protected at every big cat facility across the country,” said IFAW’s Josephine Martell. “In addition, it is essential that the final rules add strict enforcement protocols and penalties not included in the draft.”

Before the passage of the CWSA, it was as simple and cheap to buy a tiger cub on the Internet as it was to buy a black lab pup. The passage of the act made interstate commerce transactions of big cats illegal and called for a new enforcement framework. The regulations issued today are a draft of that framework. The public has 30 days to comment on the rules before they are implemented.

Both animal welfare and human safety concerns prompted the passage of the CWSA in 2003. According to IFAW, incidents involving big cats – escapes, maulings, deaths and confiscations – are increasing. Since 2003, big cats have killed 5 people and mauled 38 others. This past August, 17 year-old Haley Hilderbrand was killed by a tiger in Kansas.

The Captive Wildlife Safety Act only applies to interstate commerce. In most states private ownership of large carnivores, like tigers, remains legal. There are an estimated 10,000 tigers in private ownership in the U.S. – yet less than 5,000 left in the wild. IFAW is working to completely ban private ownership of big cats and other dangerous exotic pets.

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