Danger of big cats in wrong hands
10:52 PM CST on Wednesday, November 5, 2008
ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — Twice this year at two separate locations in Missouri, workers almost lost their lives in tiger attacks.
The terrifying incidents prompted News 4 to examine the exotic animal trade business and the potential danger of having big cats in the wrong hands.
Camels, zebras, spider monkeys, ostriches, sloths, even a baboon are all for sale at Lolli Bros. livestock auction in central Missouri.
(KMOV.com Extra: News 4 Investigates: Exotic Animal Trade)
An undercover News 4 camera also recorded a rare white lion cub, born in a small family-owned West Virginia zoo. She'll be sold at auction to the highest bidder.
The auction, which is legal, will sell hundreds of exotic species, but there is growing concern that because of auctions and backyard breeders, the big cats are winding up with people who may not appreciate the danger.
Dick Stephens bought his tigers from a backyard breeder when they were cubs.
Now he keeps the full-grown tigers in an outdoor cage at his home just north of Springfield.
Stephens downplays the danger, but a tiger lunged at News 4’s Craig Cheatham when he got too close to the cage.
Three years ago, Ronda Good's 17-year old daughter Haley was supposed to be posing for a picture with a tiger cub at a Kansas sanctuary, but the cub wasn't available, so Haley stood next to a full grown tiger hooked to a chain.
Haley turned to run, and the tiger attacked.
Despite the obvious danger connected with owning big cats and other exotic animals, the Lolli Bros. auction has attracted a remarkable following.
During News 4’s visit, vehicles with license plates from thirty states and Mexico were seen in the parking lot.
Julie Leicht is the executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, a group trying to strengthen the state's exotic animal laws, which she believes are among the weakest in the country.
Leicht says dangerous exotic animals like tigers, lions and bears should be microchipped and registered so the state can easily track them.
She said the owners should have to pay registration fees, should not be allowed to let anyone touch the animals and should be required to get insurance.
Leicht said neighboring states of Illinois, Iowa and Kansas all have stronger laws than Missouri.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration admits it has no idea how many lions and tigers are in America, but several animal welfare groups believe there could be thousands of them.
For now the fate of some potentially deadly, sometimes unregulated animals are in the hands of people who may not recognize the danger.
Watch the video there. You can thank Big Cat Rescuer, La Wanna, for making this undercover story happen.
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
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