6 big cats taken from Ohio owner

Avatar BCR | November 19, 2007 92 Views 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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6 big cats taken from Ohio owner  


Donna J. Miller’s Animals in the News


Monday, November 12, 2007 Donna MillerPlain Dealer Reporter


Six fewer big cats are languishing in cages in Ohio. Two lions and four tigers were whisked away Oct. 19 from Knox County to plush sanctuaries in San Antonio and Tampa.


Too bad the cats were irreparably harmed before they left. Their former owner, Diana McCourt, had their claws and most of their teeth pulled out so she could make money letting people pet and pose with the cats for pictures. The majestic predators can no longer clamber up a tree or shred a carcass, but they will get better care for the rest of their lives. You can see video and more photographs at bigcatrescue.org.


Ohio has plenty of laws that limit keeping native wildlife but virtually none that protect exotic animals and the people they can maim and kill. House Bill 45 would require exotic-animal owners to have sturdy enclosures, fences, warning signs, frequent inspections and liability insurance. The bill stalled soon after it was introduced by Rep. L. George Distel, a Democrat from Conneaut. He wrote the legislation after a 36-year-old Ashtabula County woman was mauled by a 500-pound black bear that escaped from its pen in May 2006. 


Since 1993, there have been 44 reported exotic-animal escapes, prompting most cities to outlaw keeping such creatures. Still, about 120 big cats live in Ohio, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture records of owners who exhibit, breed or sell them. Owners who keep exotic animals as "pets" do not need to register and submit to health and safety inspections. That’s the way it will stay without passage of HB 45. At least 25 states prohibit keeping big cats as pets.


"Ohio should join them," said Beth Preiss of the Humane Society of the United States. "Wild animals belong in the wild."


Fighting dogs:


The Humane Society of the United States is offering $5,000 rewards for information that collars dogfighters. The national group with deep pockets also has a political arm lobbying hard to increase penalties for animal fighting, which sometimes also involves drugs and weapons trafficking, prostitution and money laundering. The society says that nationwide, more than 250,000 dogs are forced into organized or street-level fights each year to entertain about 140,000 people. Report dog fighting to local police and at humanesociety.org (click on "Campaigns").


Actress Emily Deschanel of the Fox television drama "Bones" and U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, a Copley Township Democrat, are working with the Humane Society Legislative Fund to garner support for the Dog Fighting Prohibition Act, Bill 3219. The legislation toughens federal dogfighting penalties and makes it illegal to possess fighting dogs or attend the fights. To help raise money for pro-animal lobbyists and politicians, go to partyanimals.fund.org.


Ohio already outlaws fighting, watching and possessing, while it is not a crime to be a spectator in Georgia and Hawaii. Dogfighting is a felony everywhere but Idaho and Wyoming. New Jersey has the toughest laws in the country – fighting, possessing and watching are third-degree felonies punishable by three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Ohio‘s penalties, up to 18 months in prison and $5,000 fines, are ranked the sixth-toughest.


Huge vet bill:


Throw a party! Friends and local businesses are helping Tom Hug, 49, of Vermilion and Dudley, an 18-month-old golden retriever who racked up a $13,000 medical bill after he bolted into the street and was struck Sept. 23 by a car and a motorcycle. He is recovering with four plates in his pelvis. The benefit party begins at 6 p.m. Friday at German’s Villa, 3330 Liberty Ave., Vermilion. Tickets are $20. Donations can be made to the Dinner for Dudley account at any KeyBank branch. The Humane Society of Erie County will get part of the proceeds. Hug said that if he had to co-plan the event again, he would select a different menu. Posters read, "Dinner for Dudley & his Furry Friends. A STEAK FRY."


Saving furry friends:


Local animal-rights activists and wannabes are meeting over coffee at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdayat Phoenix Coffee on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. They will be planning a Fur Free Friday demonstration, trading vegan Thanksgiving recipes and making cruelty-free holiday gift lists. Go to animalrights.meetup.com.


Send animal news to djmiller@plaind.com; fax 216-999-6374; 216-999-4852; 1801 Superior Ave., Cleveland, 44114.



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