Owner says tiger cubs declawed for use by Make-A-Wish Foundation

Declawed cubs one day will grant kids’ wishes
By LIZA MARTIN
Advocate Reporter

HEATH, Ohio — Dr. James Underwood’s most recent cat declawing procedure was a little out of the ordinary.

Actually, it was downright wild.

The veteran veterinarian declawed three Siberian tiger cubs Monday at his Underwood Animal Hospital in Heath, where the tigers’ owners, Terry and Marian Thompson, of Zanesville, take their tigers, lions and leopards for care. Other exotic animals go elsewhere, Terry Thompson said.

“(Declawing) is pretty much the same for a large cat as for a regular feline,” Underwood said.

The 23-pound cubs, named Sophia, Sovia and Samson, were up and walking the morning after their surgery, cuddling with Underwood and rubbing against the legs of reporters.

“They’re pretty darn lovey,” Underwood said while cradling one of the 2-month old cubs.

Thompson said he owns 21 tigers, including seven that have been born in the past year.

“They’re a passion of mine, and I like the animals,” he said.

Thompson said the three tigers were declawed Monday so they could be handled by children who have their wish granted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

He has sent two other declawed tigers to an Akron hospital in the past three months to be part of the wish-granting.

“It’s pretty gratifying,” he said.

Siberian tigers are an endangered species, indigenous to eastern Russia, northeast China and parts of North Korea. The largest of all living cats, the males can grow to weigh an average of 650 pounds, while females tip the scales at about 350 pounds, according to www.tigerhomes.org.

It’s estimated only about 350 to 410 Siberian tigers are living in the wild, with another 490 managed in conservation programs.

There are no laws in Ohio regulating the private ownership of any exotic animals, unless they are used as part of a business. State law requires only a permit to possess native endangered species, such as the bobcat, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

However, an Ohio House bill introduced in August would require people who possess dangerous wild animals or exotic animals to obtain a personal possession permit. The bill also would establish requirements regarding the possession and care of dangerous wild animals and exotic animals.

Liza Martin can be reached at (740) 328-8544 or lmmartin@newarkadvocate.com.

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