Exotic cats are not pets

Avatar BCR | July 25, 2007 1 View 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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Exotic cats are not pets




Exotic cats are not pets


South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com


July 25, 2007



ISSUE: A South Florida man with a bad record seeks another annual exotic cat permit.


Three years after Bobo the Bengal tiger died in dramatic fashion, shot in his tracks by a state wildlife officer at the end of a massive manhunt, the Loxahatchee man who could not keep him properly caged still holds a permit to keep four other exotic cats in his care.


Steve Sipek’s African lioness, black leopard and two Bengal tigers laze about his 5-acre compound in rural Palm Beach County, despite the federal government’s documented conclusion that the animals are not well-cared for or sufficiently confined.


That’s because the state doesn’t seem to care.


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the same agency forced to launch Bobo’s costly manhunt, continues to award Sipek a commercial license to keep his animals. The permit comes with one confounding stipulation: that Sipek use them for commercial or education purposes – in other words, that he exhibit them to the public.


So a place the U.S. Department of Agriculture has deemed unsanitary to the animals and vulnerable to escape – due to its lack of medical records and on-site veterinarian, its dangerous debris and weak points in the fencing, which was also a foot lower than minimum standards allow – is welcoming the public in for a closer look, essentially by state decree.


"We’re not in it for the animal’s health," a state wildlife investigator told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in explaining the absurd discrepancy between state and federal licensing guidelines. "If he wants to live in a trash pile, that’s his issue."


It’s also an issue for his neighbors, because unhealthy tigers can be unhappy tigers, and if they’re not properly caged, they could be dangerous to the surrounding community, or to visitors. After all, Bobo’s death isn’t Sipek’s first black mark. Two years earlier, the tiger mauled a woman helping to paint his cage.


Once again, it’s time for Sipek to renew his state license. Wildlife officers should go the way of the USDA and deny the request, in everyone’s best interests. Because private citizens who raise exotic animals as pets risk more lives than their own, and Sipek long ago ran out of chances.


BOTTOM LINE: Wild animals belong in the wild, or in a zoo, not in a residential community.




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