Tell Secretary Norton the Price of Inaction Is Too High

More than 10,000 big cats—such as tigers, lions and leopards—live in the United States, many kept in private homes as exotic pets. Big cats may be cute and cuddly as cubs, but the old adage still holds true: “You can take the tiger out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the tiger.” These animals are unpredictable and have complex needs that most individuals have neither the finances nor the experience to meet. Tragedies like the killing in late February of an escaped tiger in Ventura County, California underscore the danger and damage caused when people keep big cats as pets.

On December 19, 2003, President Bush signed a bill into law that resolutely addressed the issue of captive big cats, but nearly 15 months later, the federal agency charged with writing the regulations that would put the law into effect has yet to do its job. The “Captive Wildlife Safety Act” banned interstate and foreign commerce in lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars or any hybrid big cats for the pet trade.

In the law, Congress gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), a division of the Department of Interior, six months to develop regulations to implement the law—a deadline that the USFWS has already blown by nearly nine months. Since the law was passed, there have been at least a dozen incidents involving privately-owned big cats in the U.S., according to the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition. U.S. Reps. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and George Miller (D-CA), the prime sponsors of the Captive Wildlife Safety Act in the House, and Elton Gallegly (R-CA), who represents Ventura County where last month’s tiger incident took place, have all criticized the Department for not yet implementing the law. “These regulations should have been promulgated months ago,” Gallegly wrote in a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Please contact Secretary Norton and tell her it’s time to put the Captive Wildlife Safety Act into effect. Thank you for taking action!

» Read more about why big cats should not be kept as pets.

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