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Got a tiger living next-door? State says you don’t need to know

South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com

 

Got a tiger living next-door? State says you don’t need to know

 

October 16, 2007

 

By Jennifer Hobgood

 

If your neighbors are keeping a tiger or a bear in their backyard, wouldn’t you like to know about it?

 

Hundreds of people hold permits to possess exotic wildlife in Florida. Yet, last month, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided that exotic animal owners don’t have to let neighbors know about their animals — even if the animals are extremely dangerous.

 

A rancher in Okeechobee had asked the commission to require such disclosure because she was shocked to learn that her neighbor was keeping a tiger and five bears on his property. An Ohio woman learned the hard way that her neighbor kept bears. Last year, one entered her home, attacked and nearly killed her.

 

When Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992, thousands of exotic animals suddenly roamed loose. The escapees included boa constrictors, baboons, iguanas and wallabies.

 

Despite these serious risks, the commission ditched a proposed requirement to notify neighbors when a person acquires a dangerous animal. Under the commission’s proposal, immediate neighbors would be notified only if an animal escapes. But notifying next-door neighbors about escapes is simply not good enough: I think all of us would like to know if we live two houses — or two blocks — away from a lion, and if that lion gets loose.

 

Beyond the captive wildlife notification rule decision, there’s another question about the cruelty of keeping wild animals as pets. The federal government and other states are taking steps to curb the exotic wildlife trade, and Florida should follow suit. The state already prohibits Floridians from keeping certain exotic animals as pets, but it doesn’t go far enough.

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently began implementing the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which Congress passed in 2003 to prohibit interstate movement of lions, tigers and other big cats as pets. People buy the cats as cubs and are then not equipped to care for them as they grow larger.

 

Congress is now considering the Captive Primate Safety Act to provide the same protection for monkeys, chimpanzees and other primates, and the Humane Society of the United States urges swift passage of the act.

 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is currently taking public comment on the issue of captive exotic wildlife. This is an opportunity to remind the commission that citizens deserve to know what dangerous exotic animals are lurking in their neighborhoods.

 

It is also time for us to address larger concerns: Florida bans some dangerous animals as pets, but allows others. In the end, the best way to protect the public and animals is to prohibit private individuals from importing, trafficking or possessing wild animals.

 

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/sfl-exotics16forumnboct16,0,1546870.story

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