Actress, animal activist wants federal law banning the breeding of exotic cats
As Ohio officials work to ensure nothing like the exotic animal release near Zanesville ever happens again, a different effort is playing out on a national level.
One month ago today, Terry Thompson released 56 animals from his property — including lions, bears, tigers and wolves — before committing suicide. The Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office killed 48 of the animals to prevent them from escaping and harming residents. Two others are thought to have been killed by other animals.
The incident captured worldwide attention. Public outcry about the shootings put the state on a fast track to enacting legislation to prevent any future events. Gov. John Kasich and an appointed task force are working toward a Nov. 30 deadline to make recommendations to the state legislature.
On the federal level, animal activist and actress Tippi Hedren is determined to get Congress to pass the Federal Ban on Breeding Exotic Felines for Personal Possession Act, which she co-authored.
“I was so angry when I first heard what happened at the Thompson farm,” Hedren said. “There is not one good thing about having a wild animal in captivity. They should be born free and should be able to live free.”
Hedren does not want USDA-licensed or certified breeders, dealers or exhibitors to be exempt from the bill.
“This is a huge business where people are making millions and millions of dollars,” Hedren said.
Passion for change
Hedren is best known for her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and being the mother of actress Melanie Griffith. Since 1971, she’s been dealing with big cats. She is president and director emeritus of The Roar Foundation, which she founded in 1983. The nonprofit organization supports The Shambala Preserve, outside Santa Clarita in southern California, which rescues and gives sanctuary to exotic animals.
“I know it sounds like I’m cutting my own throat,” Hedren said. “But in reality, there is nothing you can give a wild animal in captivity that they need except medical care. It’s vital that we get this bill passed to ensure the insanity like what happened in Zanesville never happens again.”
The new bill will be even stronger in language than the current law Hedren supported. The Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which stops the interstate trafficking of big cats to be sold as pets or for financial gain, was signed by former President George W. Bush in December 2003.
That bill did not keep facilities from being able to breed the big cats, Hedren said. In states such as Ohio, it remained legal for private owners to sell them within the state.
Hedren thinks the shortage of state and federal wildlife inspectors has made it impossible to eliminate the black market sale of these animals.
While the new bill has been stalled because of language, Hedren said she refuses to omit the circus industry from the bill, and she says she will fight the rest of her life to get it passed.
A public safety issue
Tim Harrison, a retired Ohio police officer and firefighter, has dealt with exotic animal issues for years.
He is the director for Outreach for Animals Inc., a nonprofit group that helps rescue exotic animals and finds new homes for them with preserves such as Hedren’s.
Harrison also was a contributor and showcased in the film “The Elephant in the Living Room” which won the Genesis Award given out by the Humane Society of the United States. Several exotic animal owners from Ohio are featured in the film.
“This is always a sad situation,” Harrison said. “When private people purchase an exotic animal like a lion or tiger, they are signing a death warrant for either themselves or the animal.”
The minute Harrison heard of the animals at the Thompson farm, he said he got in his car and drove to Zanesville.
“I drove around the perimeter of the area and offered my assistance,” Harrison said. “I never really met Terry, but I knew who he was and what he may have had. That was a really sad situation. I was hoping that we would be able to capture some of the animals, but that didn’t work out.”
Harrison agrees with Hedren: private individuals don’t need to own exotic animals and laws need to be strict.
“This is a public safety issue,” Hedren said. “I know of 575 people in the past eight years that have either been maimed or killed by an exotic feline. No one in their right mind would let their child or grandchild play or go in with a big cat.”
State, federal laws
State Sen. Troy Balderson, who sits on the governor’s task force, said he wants to pass laws on the state level and didn’t want to comment on any federal proposals. The Zanesville Republican said he’s not interested in banning everyone from owning exotic animals.
He said he has traveled to Blacklick and Stark County to visit animal preserves.
“They’ve been doing this for a long time, and I don’t know that we want to shut them down,” Balderson said. “I don’t want to pass laws on emotion. I think this can be done in stages.”
Balderson did say an Ohio law should encompass circuses, like Hedren is supporting.
“But we also have to remember that we have those type of enterprises traveling through Ohio to other states, so we have to be careful,” Balderson said.
Hedren said cities in California have passed laws banning circuses because of the treatment of animals. The circuses have to go around those cities when traveling.
“These guys in government are going to have to get stringent,” Hedren said. “It’s the government’s fault this problem exists. The government should take care of it.”
Balderson said he is hoping the task force, which last met Oct. 31, will have recommendations in the next couple of weeks.
Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz, who gave the order to kill the animals, sat in on one of the task force’s meetings.
Lutz said he thinks a state law is long overdue, but he also is hesitant to discuss a federal bill.
“I don’t think I’m completely qualified to say who can or can’t own one of these animals,” Lutz said. “My major objective is to make sure this never happens again. There has to be restrictions and guidelines.”
Lutz said his one concern regarding a federal law is if it would prohibit a state law.
“What I do know is that it wasn’t enough to have fences and pens for a mad man to cut those fences and pens and let those animals out,” Lutz said.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlumutter, D-Colo., a co-sponsor of the federal bill Hedren wants passed, said he agrees with the bill because of his concern with the humane treatment of exotic animals and the cost of providing for their well-being.
“Particularly when they are cast aside by unaccredited organizations,” Perlumutter said.
State Rep. Brian Hill, who represents Muskingum and Coshocton counties, said he not only wants Ohio to pass a bill regulating the breeding and sale of exotic animals, but he thinks the bill Hedren supports is just as important.
“I think this is not just a state issue,” Hill said. “It’s a national issue that’s not going away. Another issue we need to look at is what happens if we start putting restrictions and issuing permits and the owners of these animals can’t afford it. Who is going to take these animals?”
Hedren said there are facilities throughout the U.S., but finding homes can be a challenge.
“We’re usually full,” Hedren said. “We do have room for two cats, but that’s not a lot of space if you think someone has 20 cats they need to find a home for.”
Harrison and Hedren said it’s unknown how many people own exotic animals. But through research, Harrison said he knows of at least 3,400 tigers in Texas alone.
Hill said he has heard of at least 40 private owners in Ohio, but thinks there are hundreds if not thousands of exotic animals in the state.
“We just don’t have any real way of knowing unless they get licenses and permits,” Harrison said.
Hedren doesn’t have a private farm filled with exotic animals like Thompson did. The Shambala Preserve is a sanctuary where there can’t be any breeding, buying, selling and no commercial use. A sanctuary has to be located outside city limits, must provide adequate veterinary care, proper permitting and licensing and there must be a financial plan in place in case of an emergency so the facility doesn’t become part of the problem.
Harrison and Hedren know how dangerous large, wild animals can be. Hedren has been attacked by cats she has raised and she said her daughter, Melanie Griffith, also has been attacked.
“They are not your best friends,” Hedren said. “No matter what you hope, they are wild and react that way. It can happen in the split second.”
Harrison lost a close friend from a snake bite and knows the danger in thinking a wild animal can be treated as a pet.
“Tigers just want to be tigers,” Harrison said. “But people don’t think that far ahead when they buy them as cute little babies. They don’t understand a tiger’s natural instinct is to kill. And when a wild animal feels pushed into a corner, they’ll fight their way out.”
Leonardo DiCaprio talks about ‘J. Edgar,’ saving wild tigers
Activist and actor shares details about his lead role in ‘J. Edgar’ and his dedication to environmental issues like animal conservation.
Photo: Keith Bernstein/Warner Bros.
Almost as well-known for his dedication to environmental causes as he is for his acting,Leonardo DiCaprio does much more than pay lip service to the crucial issues concerning the planet. “Why is it important to me? It’s important to everybody,” he replied when MNN asked about it at the news conference for his latest film, the Clint Eastwood-directed “J. Edgar.”
“The environmental movement is the biggest peoples’ movement in the world. Unfortunately, our governments and corporations haven’t responded to protect our planet’s natural resources,” said DiCaprio, whose interests were first sparked in childhood. “I was fascinated with nature and I actually wanted to be a marine biologist when I was very young and that was a great passion of mine. In the off-season when I’m not making movies, I became more and more active as an environmentalist and trying to be more vocal about issues that I felt were important. I created my foundation as a result of that and throughout my website I try to shed some light on some very topical issues. “Right now the campaign that I’m a part of is to save the last remaining wild tigers throughout Asia. There are only 3,200 left in the wild. There are more tigers in Texas in cages than there are tigers in the wild and we’re at risk of losing this iconic species for all time.”
DiCaprio explained that the problem is twofold. “Throughout Asia, a lot of these countries are selling off their jungle and forest rights to palm oil and paper and pulp companies, and there’s this [idea] that comes from witch doctors that these animals can make you more virile, make you more of a man, so they crush the bones and make wine out of them. Unfortunately, the wild tiger’s is the most expensive and sought after,” he said, noting that a similar belief has led to slaughter of rhinoceros for their horns and sharks for their fins. “They think it has medicinal properties. That kind of mentality needs to be changed.” At the same time, “it’s a land preservation effort, because if you can unify the public behind saving an iconic species like the tiger like they did with the panda, it means you need to protect their habitat and that means saving thousands of acres for them to be able to roam and breed. So there’s a huge effort throughout Asia to protect the habitat,” said DiCaprio, who is working withsavetigersnow.org and the World Wildlife Fund on the issue.
A member of the WWF board (ditto the NRDC, Global Green and the International Fund for Animal Welfare), he hopes that the initiative will be as successful as the “great victory” for which he campaigned, a prohibition on shark finning. “We have a ban in California that’s going to save a lot of these top predators in the ocean,” he said. “The idea is to get people to become more knowledgeable about the issue and try to get corporations and individuals to contribute to these nonprofit organizations to make that happen.”
On screen, the star of such iconic films as “Titanic,” “The Aviator,” “The Departed” and “Inception” plays what is arguably his most challenging role yet, aging over six decades to portray the life and career of FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover in “J. Edgar,” opening Nov. 9 in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington D.C., and in more cities on Nov. 11.
Hoover is not a likeable character, but DiCaprio succeeds in bringing him to life in all his contradictions and complexities. “I don’t have to sympathize or empathize with a human being in order to portray them. Some of the greatest roles that actors have been able to play haven’t been the most endearing on screen,” reminded the actor, who credits screenwriter Dustin Lance Black’s script for its “fascinating portrait” of a man who devoted his life to government service while denying himself a personal life, but undeniably accomplished much in the process.
“J. Edgar Hoover really transformed the police system in America and created this federal bureau that to this day is one of the most feared and respected and revered police forces in the entire world. But in his later years he became, in essence, a political dinosaur who didn’t adapt to the changing of our country. When the Civil Rights Movement came along, he saw that as an uprising of the people and didn’t adapt or change. He stayed in power way too long and he didn’t listen to his own critics. You can’t deny that he was a patriot, but at the same time, his tactics were pretty deplorable.”
The film explores Hoover’s relationships with his right-hand man Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), his loyal secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and his mother (Judi Dench), with whom he lived until she died. “He was a crockpot of eccentricities. We couldn’t even fit all his eccentricities into this movie,” quipped DiCaprio, “One of the most powerful men in our country lived with his mother until he was 40 years old, and listened to his mother for political advice. He was a mama’s boy.”
Also depicted is the homosexuality that was suspected but never stated. Hoover “was incredibly oppressed emotionally. His only outlet was his job. No matter what his sexual orientation was, he was devoted to his job and power was paramount to him. Holding onto that power at all costs was the most important thing in his life. He should have retired much sooner than he did and many presidents tried to oust him,” DiCaprio reflected. “He didn’t adapt or change to our country and that’s one of the most important things that a political leader can do.”
DiCaprio relished delving into researching Hoover and talking to people who knew him on a visit to Washington, D.C., comparing the process to “a college course on J. Edgar Hoover. That’s the fun of making a movie for me, not only understanding the history and reading the books, but understanding what motivated this man was the most fascinating part of this research.”
Fortuitously, added DiCaprio, Eastwood saved the scenes involving the elderly versions of the characters for the final two weeks of filming “so we got to prepare for that and get our footing in our characters. We sat in the makeup chair for five or six or seven hours. But the challenge for me was not just the prosthetic work and how to move like an older man, but how to have 50 years of experience in the workplace and how to talk to a young Robert Kennedy as if he was some political upstart that didn’t know what he was talking about.”
DiCaprio praised director Eastwood for making that job as easy as possible. “Clint creates an environment for all of us to really focus on the acting and the drama and the interaction of the characters. He expects you to plant your feet and tell the truth and that’s what we tried our best to do on this movie. He was very understanding about the different time periods that we had to shift back and forth from in this movie, all the complex politics and character development, and he gave us everything we could possibly ask for as actors.”
DiCaprio is currently working with director Baz Luhrmann on a new version of “The Great Gatsby,” playing the title character opposite Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway.
Hear what Arch Deal has to say about Big Cat Rescue. Play clip above. Download HERE
In 1968, Arch found what would be his new first love, skydiving.
“As a newsman who was also a licensed pilot, I found skydiving was the fastest growing sport in the nation and wondered why people were jumping out of ‘perfectly good’ airplanes,” Arch says.“I saw it as an exciting news story. In developing the report, I did several dives and found it to be an extremely addictive sport and one I wanted to continue on a personal basis.” Deal eventually formed a group of skydivers and christened them “The Falling Arches.”
On his 40th birthday, October 5, 1971, Deal spent part of the day at his new favorite sport by leaping out of a jump plane 40 times in celebration.
A year and a half later he appeared on the syndicated version of “To Tell The Truth” hosted by Garry Moore. His task was to try to stump the celebrity panel about his unique 40-skydive birthday bash. Unfortunately, Arch totally failed this challenge when Joe Garagiola recognized one of the imposters and the other panelists had no problem picking Arch out of the lineup since he made no attempt to downplay his golden-toned broadcast voice.
Arch had never tried to keep his love of skydiving away from the newsroom. Colleague Larry Elliston related an episode which occurred one evening after most of the staff had gone home. Arch was in his full parachute gear and clothing, laying on his back atop a utility desk in the middle of the newsroom. While he was explaining a particular skydiving maneuver, in walked a Cub Scout troop on a tour of the station. Arch continued right on with his demonstration and kindly accommodated the tour by including the scouts in on the demonstration and asking the youngsters for questions.
Arch continued to anchor the 6 and 11pm news block at WFLA and ratings generally tilted back and forth between Channel 8 and Channel 13, until one fateful day in June, 1975, when was he was flying over Cypress Gardens to participate in a demonstration parachute jump as part of a station promotion. After leaving the dive plane at an altitude of 3,000 feet, Deal was faced with a sudden life-or-death situation when his main chute failed to fully deploy.
“The first parachute was locked in the deployment bag,” Arch remembers. “It was wrapped around the pilot chute, the device that lifts the parachute off your back and into the air. It just wouldn’t budge. At 2,000 feet above ground, I tried to open the reserve chute but it only wrapped around the lines of the main chute that were flailing above my head. It just was not of any use at all.”
Deal impacted the ground at about 120 miles per hour. Perhaps the spongy, soft brush lessened the crash and he miraculously survived. However, his injuries were almost fatal, including: a broken neck, one millimeter from a classic hangman’s break; six broken ribs; two lumbar vertebrae crushed against each other; a separated pelvis; and hundreds of less serious contusions, lacerations and bruises. He also experienced a major bruise to his ego.
“Not one person from WFLA came to see me in the hospital, and just about every one of my bones were broken somewhere,” Arch says. “But Hugh Smith, my biggest competitor, not only came to visit but filmed a long interview and ran it on his Pulse News program.” That really impressed me…the sign of a first class news organization and a first class news director.”
WTVT also reported Arch’s medical condition on each newscast until he was upgraded to good condition while his own station reported nothing at all. Arch would not speculate on the reason why WFLA remained silent after their initial report of the accident. There were some serious disagreements about whether the accident would be covered by his company insurance but later the courts ruled he was on a bona fide station promotion and therefore his accrued medical expenses were fully covered.
It was downhill between WFLA and Arch after that. Executives at Channel 8 were troubled by Arch’s obsession with the sport of skydiving. After the accident they considered Deal’s hobby as way too dangerous for someone who was their main anchor. Deal got back to work on the air within two months of his accident, but not soon enough for those in power at the station. There was tension with station management, largely due to the insurance coverage dispute. Deal states that everyone in the newsroom received him warmly on his return.
In 1976 Deal moved over to WLCY (now WTSP), Channel 10, at the time an ABC affiliate. Deal remained there as news director and sole on-air anchor on both evening newscasts for two years.
Since then, Deal’s body healed to the point he could skydive professionally, become media marketing director for the Miller Brewing Company, and broadcast airborne traffic reports with Nancy Alexander for WRBQ’s highly-rated Q-Zoo. He also appeared in radio and television commercials for automobile dealers and real estate agencies. Both the radio station and Miller Brewing Company agreed to allow him to juggle his time to do other work as long as it didn’t interfere with his contractual responsibilities.
Starting in 1983, Deal was appointed by Miller to be one of the Miller Lite All Stars, a group of athletes and personalities who toured the country promoting Miller products. Only 35 All Stars were selected along with Deal….among them was Bob Eucker, John Madden, Corky Carroll, ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion, and author Mickey Spillane. He supplied voice-overs for the events, and skydived into almost every major stadium in America, including the L.A. Coliseum, San Diego’s Jack Murphy (now Qualcomm), and the Meadowlands in New York. On overseas tours, he jumped into Aruba (very windy place)..and Red Square in Russia, “with permission of course…otherwise I would look like swiss cheese,” adds Deal.
Meanwhile, Deal started a company, The Voice of Business, to produce and install audio messages for business customers’ telephones “on hold” and has landed some very big-name clients. He also began teaching mass communications classes and hosting a bi-weekly radio program at Hillsborough Community College. In 1991, Deal became a father again, this time to a girl that he continues to adore and raise in Tampa.
Deal retired from broadcasting in the early 90’s but continued to skydive every weekend until August 10, 2002 when once again his reserve parachute failed to slow a fall during a session at the Zephyrhills, Florida Skydive Center. In contrast to his 1975 injuries, Deal was lucky this this time: he only broke both of his legs.
The 70-year-old living news and skydive action figure returned to teaching after a month in rehabilitation. Deal is using a walker to help him adjust to the use of steel rods placed in his legs.
Also in the works is an autobiography of his years in broadcasting with the temporary title, “The Ups and Downs of A Television Anchor/Skydiver.”
Arch Deal summarized his more than three decades of news anchoring and traffic reporting this way: “I wouldn’t have traded my career in broadcasting for anything in the world and it was especially nice because I was in Tampa. I think the viewers on the west coast of Florida are the most wonderful and caring people. Tampa has always been a great big, little bitty town and I hope it stays that way.
People welcomed me into their living rooms and their automobiles for so many years to see and hear me do what I loved doing the most. I always considered myself to have a tremendous responsibility to the people I served and for that opportunity I will always be grateful.”
Arch has written an expanded version of his encounter with John F. Kennedy during the President’s visit to Tampa in November of 1963. To read his account, CLICK HERE
The above is from: http://www.big13.net/Arch%20Deal/arch_deal_8.htm
Arch Deal has been a long time supporter of Big Cat Rescue and has kindly offered the above testimonial.
Howard Stern Talks About Idiots Who Get Big Cats as Pets
Howard Stern talks about The Elephant in the Living Room.
Directed by Michael Webber and staring animal protection advocate Tim Harrison, the movie blows the lid off the American subculture of raising the most dangerous animals on the planet as common household pets.