Big Cat Rescue is at Expo
Expo is always an amazing event – animal shelter professionals from around the country, and the around the world, gathering to learn best practices, share innovative ideas, and most importantly – join forces. This year’s Expo in New Orleans has an extra special feel to it. As we convene on a city that has come to represent a landmark change in how U.S. animal rescue organizations manage their emergency response programs, it is inspiring to see a record breaking number of attendees fill rooms and halls sharing their experiences AND solutions.
Big Cat Rescue is at Expo for many reasons – to educate animal lovers on the issues facing big cats, to gain support for our federal bill that has the potential to effectively end big cat abuse in the U.S., and to educate on how each and every person can be sure they are a Big Cat Friendly Tourist. But what didn’t occur to me until I began speaking to attendees is likely the most obvious reason. Big Cat Rescue is at the Pet Care Expo because sadly, these majestic and wild animals are being kept as pets. And that simple truth is something that will never fail to shock me, even though everyone at Big Cat Rescue knows it is an issue and we work day after day to end the private ownership of big cats. Even though in my efforts to educate and advocate for these wonderful animals I find myself saying that line at least a dozen times a day, it is still shocking.
There is a impressive contingent of animal welfare and animal shelters professionals here in New Orleans from around the world as guests of Humane Society International. These are representatives from China, India, Brazil, Uruguay, Kenya, Egypt, Cuba, Mexico, Tanzania, Belize, Honduras, and many other countries. What really stood out to me about this particular group was their absolute disbelief that animals such as lions and tigers could be privately owned in the U.S. For all the issues they face in their own countries, from unmanageable street dog populations to the poaching of these same animals, the idea that there are more tigers privately owned in the states than there are in the wild was completely unfathomable. In stark contrast, when speaking to guest from all over the U.S., many spoke disappointedly about private owners and pseudo sanctuaries in their own hometowns.
It seems all too easy to be saddened by the state of big cats in the America. But here at Expo, seeing and hearing of the support for our bill from advocates that primarily work with companion animals, I am even more confident that Big Cat Rescue is effectively working towards the solution.
Jennifer Leon – Director of Outreach