USDA Reopening Comment Period
on Legal Petition Submitted by Big Cat Rescue and Coalition
to Prohibit the Public Contact with Big Cats and Cubs
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced it is reopening the comment period on a legal petition submitted by Big Cat Rescue, the Humane Society of the United States and a coalition of organizations (HSUS, World Wildlife Fund, Detroit Zoological Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Born Free USA, Fund for Animals and Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries) to completely prohibit exhibition facilities from allowing members of the public to come into direct contact with dangerous wild animals.
Big Cat Rescue and the coalition applaud USDA for taking this action to solicit information that would support a regulation prohibiting these inhumane and unsafe interactive experiences with big cats, bears and nonhuman primates. “We are very pleased that USDA is requesting further input from the public and see it as a positive sign that USDA is considering taking the action requested in our petition”, said Carole Baskin, founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue.
The action follows a determination by USDA in April 2016 that public contact with infant exotic cats violates the Animal Welfare Act, making clear that it is illegal for cubs to be immediately pulled from their mothers after birth to be hand-reared and bottle-fed by members of the public before their immune systems have even developed.
Comprehensive action to eliminate this dangerous practice is essential – for example, Dade City’s Wild Things in Dade City, Florida is currently under USDA investigation for numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including stress on infant and young tiger cubs handled and forced to swim with the public.
In addition, PETA yesterday filed an intent to sue Dade City’s Wild Things under the Endangered Species Act. PETA contends that prematurely separating infant tigers from their mothers, forcing them to interact with members of the public, and confining them to nearly barren concrete pens all constitute unlawful “takes,” defined by the Endangered Species Act as harming, harassing, and/or wounding an animal. http://www.peta.org/blog/nightmarish-tiger-sweatshop-gets-notice-petas-intent-sue/
Here is the email we got from USDA today:
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is considering whether to revise the Animal Welfare Act regulations governing the handling of (and public contact with) dangerous animals.
In 2012, a coalition of animal advocacy organizations petitioned APHIS to ban all public contact with dangerous animals exhibited under the Animal Welfare Act. The agency published the petition and received more than 15,000 comments. APHIS is now reopening the comment period until August 31, 2016, as it seeks the public’s input on additional questions that will help the agency better determine its course of action.
The questions are included in a notice, which is available for public inspection on the Federal Register page at: https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection.
Interested stakeholders can view the questions and submit comments beginning at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2012-0107
APHIS will host three listening sessions, using these additional questions, in an effort to gather targeted public feedback. The schedule for these sessions and participant information is as follows:
Wednesday, June 29; 1-3 p.m. (EDT); please register here
Wednesday, July 6; 1-3 p.m. (EDT); please register here
Thursday August 4; 1-3 p.m. (EDT); please register here
YOUR Voice Matters
All you have to say is your name and that you are opposed to public contact with exotic cats of any age. That’s it.
You may register for multiple listening sessions, but you must register for each one separately. After registering, you will receive an email containing the call-in number, access code and an identification code specific to each participant. Please do not share your identification code with anyone because this will impede your ability to connect to the listening session.
During the listening sessions, an operator will provide instructions for those participants who wish to speak. We ask that each speaker please limit their comments to three minutes or less. Thank you.
If you have any problems registering (or connecting), please email Dave Sacks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have created a webpage to serve as our information hub regarding the feedback we are soliciting on handling dangerous animals. The site, located , features the eight questions APHIS is asking as well as instructions on registering for the listening sessions. The site will subsequently feature audio recordings and written transcripts of the listening sessions.
Thank you for your interest in animal welfare and your willingness to participate in this process. APHIS will use the public comments it receives as it considers possible actions to protect animals from any potential harm that can result from being handled by humans. Please feel free to share this stakeholder message with anyone you think would be interested in participating.
At USDA Animal Care, ensuring the welfare of the animals we regulate is at the heart of everything we do.