Tiger attack prompts questions over exotic animal law
ST. PAUL – Some are questioning the effectiveness of a 2004 state law designed to regulate ownership of exotic animals after another Minnesotan was attacked by a captive tiger.
Local officials and law enforcement say that even with the state law, and a patchwork of local ordinances, that it’s very difficult to gauge how many people own dangerous animals. They suspect the number is high, given the growing popularity of photo opportunities with tiger cubs at shopping malls and county fairs.
Families are paying $25 a pop for photos of their kids with cute cubs. But eventually the animals grow up and are discarded, sometimes sold for as little as $200 at garage sales and truck stops.
"You have this continuing influx of tigers that have no place to go," said Tom Solin, a private investigator of wildcat injuries and deaths. Solin told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis he thinks the photo fad is behind what seems to be so many tigers in the state.
No one knows for sure how many big cats live in Minnesota. But the recent fatal mauling of Cynthia Gamble, a Pine County woman who worked extensively with tigers, is raising questions about the 2004 law, which was supposed to require all dangerous animals be registered with the state.
But since the law took effect, only 16 owners have registered a total of 44 wildcats, three bears and 46 primates, according to records at the state Board of Animal Health.
"Are all the animals registered? I seriously doubt it," said veterinarian Kris Petrini, the board’s assistant director.
Gamble, for instance, held an exhibitor’s license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – but her three tigers were not registered.
Some cities and counties are going further than the state, banning wildcat ownership outright. Last week, Woodbury joined 78 other Minnesota cities that forbid such animals altogether, unless they’re traveling with circuses. Sherburne County passed its own ban days after Gamble’s death, and Goodhue County recently approved a ban after a court battle with an exotic animal owner.
Animal welfare advocate Nancy Minion of Woodbury, who helped draft the state law, is lobbying this spring to classify tigers and lions as "dangerous" and add harsher penalties to the law.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com
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