700 word response in Pahrump Valley Times

Upon further reflection, the editor, Mark Smith said if I could cut it down to 700 words, he would run it, so this is what I sent and we will see if he does:

Thanks again Mark.  696 words (that was hard for a long winded person like me to do):

The term "responsible exotic animal owner" is an oxymoron.  Responsible people do not endanger their communities while forcing wild animals to suffer lives of deprivation and boredom for their own amusement.  There have been 584 incidents in the U.S. involving captive exotic cats since 1990. These incidents have resulted in the deaths of 21 humans, 16 adults and 5 children, the additional mauling of 193 more adults and children, 170 escapes, the killing of 93 big cats, and 122 confiscations. These figures only represent the headlines that Big Cat Rescue has been able to track. Because there is no reporting agency that keeps such records the actual numbers are certainly much higher.

The Journal of Internal Medicine in 2006 estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and as many as 78,000 have died. Zoonotic diseases are those that jump from animals to humans.

By the early 1990's science was beginning to discover the extent to which animals exhibited intelligence and emotion. Anyone who has ever had a pet cat or dog could tell you that they are intelligent and that they feel loneliness, anger, resentment, embarrassment, joy and a host of emotions, but it took science hundreds of years to catch up. Keeping wild animals captive began to be considered cruel and self serving as people became aware of the fact that the tiger in the cage could experience the pain of being held against his will.

It became fashionable then for exotic pet owners to call themselves "educators" but if you are standing there petting a tiger or with a cougar on a leash, no one is hearing the message. They are just thinking how cool it would be if they could pet a tiger or have a cougar on a leash.

The exotic animal "rescuers" are often the most vocal in opposition to ending the exotic pet trade. They rant incessantly about how greater restrictions on wildlife trafficking will mean that they have to euthanize all of their animals when that has never been true. Where laws have passed in the US banning the trade in wild animals there have always been grandfather clauses that allow the private owners to keep their animals until they die and there have always been exceptions made to organizations, such as accredited zoos and sanctuaries, but the ones screaming the loudest have no interest in meeting a higher standard. They use the opportunity as a platform for disseminating false information and blaming people who truly care about animals for all of their woes.

We are a generation who was raised with zoos and circuses. When we see that cute baby animal being cuddled on some talk show we choose to NOT think about where the animal's mother is, or how it came to be that he was taken from her to be used this way. When we pay to see a film about tiger brothers, even when we know that more than 30 tigers were used in the film, we choose to NOT think about where those animal will be a year from now.

If we acknowledge great suffering and choose to look the other way, how can we reconcile our conscience? When the answers are so easy and cost us little more than a few letters and phone calls to our legislators, and yet we are unwilling to do even that small thing to alleviate the suffering of tens of thousands of wild animals who are languishing in cages, possessed by a class of people who would be criminals if they treated people the way they treat their "beloved pets" how can we feel good about ourselves? Sometimes the truth hurts, but no one suffers more than the exotic animals when the only thing they have; their desire to live free is taken from them.

I believe that we are all on a path to our higher self and that even the worst of the abusers will one day look inside and redirect their actions. Until that time comes the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. still ring true, "Legislation cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless."

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


For the cats,

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


Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:


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