July 11, 2007
New regulations will protect public safety, animal welfare
The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization including more than 80,000 members and constituents in Louisiana, today hailed the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for enacting regulations that prohibit private possession of lions, tigers, and other big cats as pets in the state. The HSUS had submitted comments in favor of the regulations.
“These animals can and will attack. No amount of training will change their basic instincts,” said Julia Breaux, Louisiana state director for The HSUS. “We understand people’s fascination with these majestic animals, but they belong in the wild, not in basements and backyard cages.”
Ten people have been killed by captive big cats in the United States since 2001, and many more have been injured. In 2004, a Louisiana woman underwent surgery after being seriously hurt by her pet leopard. The animal was shot and killed to stop the mauling.
People get these animals as cubs, and when they grow too large and dangerous to handle there is no place for them to go. Reputable sanctuaries are at or near capacity. They may be confined to small cages or sold to substandard facilities.
The state enacted a similar measure in 2006 prohibiting possession of monkeys and other primates.
An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 big cats are kept in private hands in the United States, including 5,000 tigers — more than remain in the wild in India.
The big cats now prohibited as pets in Louisiana are lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, cougars, and hybrids resulting from cross breeding these animals.
People who legally had these animals as of August 15, 2006 — when a state law requiring regulation of the animals took effect — can keep them but not breed or replace them. They must apply for permits and meet standards for cages, insurance, and microchips. The animals must be kept in safe and sanitary conditions. They cannot be taken from the premises except to receive medical care.
The new regulations have no impact on accredited zoos.
Only about ten states now allow big cats as pets without a permit. Lawmakers passed bills supported by The HSUS to prohibit big cats as pets in Iowa and Washington this year, and in Kansas and Maryland in 2006. Legislation is currently under consideration in North Carolina to ban the animals as pets and in Ohio to require a permit.
The U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting interstate transportation of big cats as pets in 2003. Similar legislation is now under consideration for primates.