JEFFERSON CITY - Owners of big cats in Missouri may soon see restrictions on their animals.
"It's a big problem, and it needs to be addressed before someone gets killed," said Rosella Baller.
Baller lives near a facility she says houses 84 large, potentially dangerous animals. She has been active for 4 years trying to get legislation to regulate the ownership of these big carnivores in Missouri.
"It will give someone oversight on what's going on. Right now, the sheriff will not go out and count the animals, and the conservation department cannot make them abide by the wildlife code, and the USDA has no jurisdiction," Baller said.
Senator Jolie Justus of Kansas City sponsored Senate Bill 206 because right now Missouri is one of the only states without regulations on the animals.
"Missouri is quickly becoming a haven for people who want to have these large carnivores without a permit," Justus said.
The bill would prohibit ownership of the meat eaters without permits and liability insurance. Some large cat owners agree there needs to be regulation, but disagree with some of the stipulations.
"To put an insurance policy that is so prohibitive, that none of us can afford it, and that effectually bans the ownership of these animals," said J.B. Anderson of the Feline Conservation Federation.
"If these people can't afford the insurance, they can't afford the animals, the same as if you can't afford car insurance, you can't afford to drive," Baller said in reply.
If the bill passes, anyone possessing, breeding, or transporting a large carnivore after January 1, 2008 must have a permit from the Department of Agriculture.
Tuesday was the first hearing on the bill.
Edited by: Jonathan Coffman
Reported by: Natalie Swallow
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2007 at 10:38 PM
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