I am sorry to hear that the FWC chose to send the Florida panther cub to a zoo where she will live out a life of confinement and deprivation. We have been rehabilitating bobcats for more than twenty years, and have 15 years experience with captive cougars, and would have been overjoyed to work with this cub to get her ready for release back into the wild where she belongs. The FWC is pro captivity and is annoyed by our efforts to end the pet trade in exotic cats in Florida, so I am guessing that is why they did not send the cub to the state’s most qualified rehab and release facility. This is the same governing body that drags a stressed out cougar to the fairgrounds every year as a prop for their display. Video here: http://capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=6811326
More on our rehab work: http://bigcatrescue.org/rehabbobcats2007.htm
The FWC was given constitutional authority over all wildlife, in the form of a constitutional amendment, making it nearly impossible for the citizens of Florida to have any say in the matter. The FWC allows 200 lb mountain lions to be kept as pets, which means they can be walked in public on leashes, let out into back yards, hauled into schools, etc. While the FWC says you can’t have a tiger as a pet, if you call yourself a business, you can now have your tiger as a business asset. The ex-Tarzan, Steve Sipek, in Loxahatchee is a perfect example of this sort of circumvention of the law. Even when USDA won’t license him, the FWC will.
What Florida needs is a constitutional amendment that returns the FWC to their previous status as a government agency and puts the power back into the hands of the people. Of the more than 6,000 people polled, 76% say they would support a ban on the private possession of all exotic animals. That tells me, and the FWC Commissioners have admitted to the same belief, that the people of Florida would vote favorably for such an amendment. On Oct. 8 and 9th the FWC will conduct public workshops on whether or not the neighbors should be notified in the event of an escape of a tiger, black mamba, chimp, etc. Of course, the only people getting notified in any meaningful way are the people who own these animals and who spoke out in St. Pete recently, saying they don’t want to let their neighbors know. We think that the 16+ million people in Florida who don’t own dangerous exotic pets have a right to know and bet that most of your readers would speak up if they did.
The following is a partial listing (653) of incidents in the U.S. involving captive exotic cats since 1990. The U.S. incidents have resulted in the deaths of 19 humans, 15 adults and 4 children, the additional mauling of 171 more adults and children, 134 escapes, the killing of 79 big cats, and 105 confiscations. These figures only represent the headlines that Big Cat Rescue has been able to track. Because there is no reporting agency that keeps such records the actual numbers are certainly much higher. http://bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm
To see a video of the mauling of a zoo keeper in 2006 go to http://bigcatrescue.org/animal_contact.htm
The Journal of Internal Medicine in 2006 estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and as many as 78,000 have died. Read more about zoonotic diseases here:
To see the number of exotic cats abandoned each year go to http://bigcatrescue.org/animal_abuse.htm
To view a trend chart that shows the alarming escalation of big cat incidents here: http://bigcatrescue.org/Flash/BigCatBans/BigCatBanCharts.htm
The U.S. represents less than 5% of the entire global population, but up through 2006 79% of ALL captive cat incidents occurred in the U.S. (Now that the US is clamping down on the exotic pet trade, the reports in 2007 show a decline in U.S. incidents compared to the rest of the world) Likewise, Florida represents less than 6% of the U.S. population while 11% of all U.S. incidents occur in Florida. Florida boasts the most comprehensive sets of regulations allowing private ownership of exotic cats while ranking #1 in the highest numbers of big cat killings, maulings and escapes. To view photos of fatal injuries from cases reported in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine click http://bigcatrescue.org/laws/AMJForensicFeline.pdf
This video shows facilities that are currently licensed and approved by the USDA and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission that have been operating at this level or worse for more than 10 years and yet are still open to the public. These images are typical of those who allow cameras in but there are many worse ones who do not. This shows precisely why we need to ban private possession of exotic cats. http://www.veoh.com/videos/v2570412PGPYhmr
I hope you will help save cats, like the baby Florida Panther in your story, from being doomed to lives in cages. If you have never been to Big Cat Rescue, please call me at the cell number below, and I will be happy to introduce you to these remarkably intelligent creatures so that you can better understand why they shouldn’t be bred for captivity.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
Sign our petition to protect tigers here:
Get 7 Free Lessons from the Teachers of "The Secret" here: http://bigcatrescue.org/TheSecret.htm
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