PITTSBORO – With the tiger mauling in a California zoo still making headlines across the country, many here at home are wondering why North Carolina doesn’t even have a law preventing private ownership of tigers.
Some sanctuaries and zoos say it’s time to make it law. Pam Fulk helps care for nearly a dozen tigers at Carnivore Preservation Trust. She hopes the California mauling helps zoos and sanctuaries become even safer.
“It always reminds us to look at things and say ‘is there any way to make it safer?’ So for example one of the things we’ve been talking about for months is putting an inverted fence along the top of the tiger enclosure so it hangs inward,” Fulk said.
Some counties have ordinances preventing private ownership of tigers but there is no state law.
Two years ago two tigers grabbed headlines when they were found wandering along a highway in Gaston County, evidently left behind by private owners who couldn’t handle the large cats.
A study committee initiated by the General Assembly has recommended banning someone from owning a long list of animals including tigers, elephants, and monkeys.
Opponents of the bill swamped the committee meeting to voice their concerns it might shut down some private zoos.
“You’re dealing with people and their animals which they care about very much, and you’re dealing with their business which they have worked hard for,” Wendy Wilson from Lazy Five Ranch said in July at the meeting.
But supporters of the proposed law say it’s about banning tigers in backyards and making sure facilities are legitimately keeping these animals.
“CPT has long felt that these animals should not be in possession of private individual owners for a variety of reasons but chief among them is that they are dangerous animals,” Fulk added. “Few people have the resources or knowledge to contain them safely from their neighbors.”
Fulk says no matter how personable and cute these tigers are behind their cages, they are wild and dangerous and do not belong in neighborhoods.
The state House and Senate have their own versions of the bill that define and ban dangerous animals. Both are stuck in committees but could be taken up when the legislature gets back to work in May.
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