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10000 Bond Requirement

$10,000.00 Bond Requirement

The following is a letter from Carole Baskin, founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue to the reporter from the St. Pete Times who covered the new law that regulates reptiles of concern and requires a $10,000.00 bond from exhibitors of dangerous animals such as lions, tigers and bears.

Tiger is VERY happyDear Sarah,

Thank you for quoting me on this story.  The numbers speak for themselves:

The following is a partial listing (811) of incidents involving captive big cats since 1990. These incidents have resulted in the killing or deaths of 236 big cats, 74 human deaths, more than 253 human maulings, 214 exotic cat escapes and 366 confiscations.   http://bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm    67% of these numbers occur in the U.S. despite the fact that the U.S. makes up less than 5% of the global population and is not the native home of lions and tigers.

Currently the tax payers are picking up the tab when these accidents happen and yet 76% of the public polled (with more than 5000 polled randomly on the Internet) say they would support a ban on ALL exotic animals as pets.  While many of the places in Florida call themselves zoos or sanctuaries or educations centers, most of them are merely a justification for having dangerous animals as pets.  The state of Florida says it is illegal to have a Class I animal, such as a lion, tiger, bear or gorilla as a pet, but if you call yourself a zoo, circus, training center or educator, then you can have them as working animals.

The Federal government (USDA/APHIS) says that if your animal is not a pet, but is a working animal or being exhibited in any way, you have to have their 40.00 permit and fill out a nine question page with the hardest questions being, name, address, and phone number.

This new bond requirement will separate the back yard collector from the accredited zoos and accredited rescue facilities.  In order for a Floridian Tiger-Tamer-Wannabee to have their collection of dangerous cats, they have to trot them out in public or invite the public in to see the big cats.  They usually choose to take the animal out to flea markets, parking lots, fairs and schools because if anyone saw the horrific way they are kept at home, they would not support them.  We can send you video of places in Florida that will turn your stomach, and yet the FWC does nothing to shut them down, because they have no where to send the animals and don’t want to be seen as the bad guys if they go in and kill the animals either.  This bond money will give the FWC a little more ability to enforce the law, but not much, when you consider the fact that it costs more than $5,000.00 a year just to properly care for one tiger.

The 300.00 in state and federal permit fees, and the occasional inspection that results in citations that are rarely enforced, has been little deterrent to the rampant breeding and trade in big cats in Florida.  More backyard breeders are here than any other state because our wildlife laws are not in the hands of the people for the most part.  At a recent meeting of the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commissioners, their chairman said openly that if the matter were taken to the people of Florida, in the way of a ballot initiative, he was certain they would ban possession altogether, and he is right.

Thanks again for giving such attention to this matter.  There is no reason that one more person should be mauled or killed by a captive big cat in Florida.  This new law cannot ensure that, but it is a very small step in the right direction.

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Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

http://bigcatrescue.org    Info@bigcatrescue.org

Growls greet law

Owners of exotic animals says they were ambushed by the requirement for insurance.

By S.I. ROSENBAUM

Published July 1, 2007

WIMAUMA – It takes a lot of chicken to keep three lions, four tigers, three bears and a dozen leopards happy. And all that chicken isn’t cheap. So when Robin Greenwood of Elmira’s Wildlife Sanctuary learned that new legislation would require her to put up $10,000 or buy $2-million of insurance in order to keep her beasts, she was upset. “Ten thousand dollars is a very large sum for a sanctuary struggling just to keep the animals fed,” Greenwood said.

The bill, which became law on Friday, came as a surprise to exotic-animal exhibitors — many of whom say it will impose a financial hardship. Last week, rumors were swirling about the legislation’s origin.

Could an animal-rights group such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have lobbied for it?

“Animal-rights activists believe working animals is a sin,” said Larry AllenDean, a tiger trainer based in Orlando. “It’s coming from one of these highly organized outfits.”

A PETA spokeswoman said that while the organization supports the new law, the group didn’t lobby for it.

It’s hard to find anyone who will take responsibility for the new law.

Senate Bill 2766 was sponsored by Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge.

But Posey said his bill was meant to affect only reptile owners, not exotic-mammal exhibitors or trainers. The amendment concerning mammals was added at the last minute by Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, Posey said.

Capt. John West of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also said the amendment came from Alexander.

“I was surprised because he never talked to me about it, just put it on my bill,” Posey said.

Alexander didn’t return calls seeking comment. An aide, Rachel Barnes, said Alexander supported the amendment but didn’t propose it.

Rather, Sen. Michael S. Bennett, R-Bradenton did, at Alexander’s request, she said. Bennett’s name is listed with the amendment on the Senate’s Web site.

“I don’t remember why we did that,” Bennett said. “Somebody asked me to put that on but I don’t know why.”

Asked if PETA could have lobbied for the amendment, Bennett scoffed.

“If it had been PETA, I would never have offered it,” he said. “I shoot animals and eat them, okay?”

Regardless of the legislation’s origin, animal exhibitors will now have to live with it.

At least one exhibitor said she welcomes the new law.

“We’re very excited about this new provision,” said Carole Baskin of Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue.

“We think it’s a long time coming.” The money will force “roadside zoos and pseudo-sanctuaries” to take more responsibility for their charges, she said.

The law is intended to provide some liability coverage in case an animal endangers others or causes property damage.

But others are angry.

“I can’t afford it,” said Gloria Johnson, proprietor of Cougar Ridge Education Center in Havana. “I don’t happen to have $10,000 laying around.”

The wildlife commission is “working on what we can accept” in lieu of $10,000 cash, West said. He’s considering everything from bonds to certificates of deposit and letters of credit.

“It will be different for everybody depending on [their] financial situation,” he said.

The commission also have to determine what kind of violation will mean forfeiting $10,000.

Meanwhile, he said he has been inundated with calls from concerned animal exhibitors.

“The majority are not happy,” he said. “What can I tell them? This is the law.”

S.I. Rosenbaum can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or srosenbaum@sptimes.com.

[Last modified June 30, 2007, 21:19:01]