To: Joyce White, President, Creative Arts, Livestock Show, Entertainment
Re: Marcus Cook/Zoo Dynamics exhibit at Grayson County Fair
I can’t thank you enough for having an open mind regarding this issue. It’s truly commendable.
I got involved in this issue about 6 years ago when I learned the truth behind these traveling displays. I had naively seen them and also thought, like you, that the babies and adults looked like they were healthy and well taken care of, so what could be bad about it? I realized that the majority of fair organizers and venues that hire them were truly “in the dark” – as I was. They had no idea what eventually happens to these babies when they’re 400 lb. carnivores who cost $1000’s and $1000’s to feed and house for a lifespan of 20 years. No amount of ticket sales will offset these costs, so what happens to this glut of big cats and their offspring?
Usually, their shelf life as a baby quickly expires and they’re sold off as “pets.” It rarely works out, so they end up languishing in horrendous situations since owners have no options. There is no “humane society” to surrender them to. The current law only mandates they be housed in a cage big enough for them to stand up and turn around for the rest of their lives. So, that is the cruel existence for the majority. Or, they may become backyard breeders to supply the high demand for tigers bones and parts for the Asian medicinal market. Yes, that tiger baby you see today who looks so well taken care of may end up actually being slaughtered for parts. Canned hunting is still perfectly legal, too. So many end up at exotic animal auctions where hunting preserves buy them and sell shooting rights to the highest bidder or the taxidermist buys them to kill them and make a beautiful mount he can sell.
It’s sad to imagine that something as innocent as cute, cuddly wild animals on display at the fair can fuel this industry that is so dark and deadly, isn’t it? We had hoped when Haley’s Act, H.R. 1947, was introduced in the US House of Representatives in 2007, it would sail through Congress. The bill would prohibit direct contact between the general public and big cats and was named in honor of a 17-yr old high school girl who was killed while posing with a tiger at a licensed facility. But, after 2 years, it has stalled in committee.
And so, that leaves me – and countless others who know the true suffering and misery that lies behind these innocent-looking displays – to try to spread the truth and educate fair organizers around the country. But, I’ll be honest, it’s hard to try to stay one step ahead of these abusers. This is their livelihood, so they try to intimidate and threaten in order to keep the truth and their deplorable, criminal records a secret. And the animals can’t speak up for themselves, they can only implore you to act on their behalf with their beseeching eyes.
Again, I can’t thank you enough for being receptive to trying to help. It’s such a refreshing change and gives me hope that we can help them and can help make a difference.
With much gratitude,
Legislation Seeks Big Cat Controls
The bill, Haley’s Act, would prohibit physical contact between people and animals at sanctuaries.
Federal legislation recently introduced in Congress would protect the public from lion, tiger and other big cat attacks at facilities licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
H.R. 1947, also known as Haley’s Act, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives April 19. The bill is named in memory of Haley Hilderbrand, a 17-year-old high school senior in Kansas who was killed by a 550-pound Siberian tiger at a licensed big cat facility.
In 2006, after Haley’s death, the Kansas state legislature banned the private ownership of big cats as pets and forbade public contact with big cats at USDA facilities to help prevent future tragedies.
Haley’s Act would amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to prohibit direct contact between the general public and big cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars and hybrids.
The bill would not ban the public display of big cats in zoos or housing big cats in sanctuaries, but seeks to strengthen safety for the public. It would also significantly increase fines for welfare act violations.
“Haley’s Act [would] spare families from the horrible anguish caused by such attacks, while also ensuring the humane treatment of these remarkable animals who are forced to live in captivity,” said U.S. Deputy Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Monica Medina.
Haley Hilderbrand’s parents, Ronda and Mike Good, have said they support the legislation. They said that if a law to prevent direct contact between big cats and the public were in place already, Haley might still be alive.
There are currently more than 10,000 big cats, such as tigers and lions, held captive in the United States. In recent years, according to the IFAW, captive big cats have injured or killed more than 60 people.
“Lions and tigers are wild animals, not pets, and USDA-licensed facilities should treat these creatures accordingly. Congress must establish strict guidelines to prevent further tragedies from occurring,” said Congresswoman Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.), who is cosponsoring the legislation with 12 other lawmakers.
Posted: April 24, 2007, 5 a.m. EST http://www.catchannel.com/News/haleys-act.aspx