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Louisiana Legislation

Sponsor(s): Sen. Rick Ward (R-17)

S.B. 250 Adds Another Exemption for Big Cat Ownership [2014]

Born Free USA Position: OPPOSE

Update (6/18/14): Governor Jindal signed this bill into law. The Animal Legal Defense Fund plans to challenge it as being unconstitutional.

Bill Description:
Under present law, the secretary of the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is allowed to create rules to control the importation and private possession of big exotic cats. Current law also requires that these rules provide exceptions for big cats traditionally kept by colleges and universities, animal sanctuaries, zoos, wildlife research centers, and scientific organizations and for owners who can prove previous ownership.

This bill would change the definition of previous ownership to include persons who obtained their animal by lawful means and continuously possessed their animal since August 15, 2006.

Background:
Louisiana law bans the private ownership of big cats, with very limited exemptions. This law is in place because the state correctly recognizes the threats that these "pets" pose to animal welfare, public safety, and community resources.

This bill, however, would increase the number of private owners who are allowed to keep big cats. Exemptions like this waste the state’s resources and put animals in harm’s way for the sake of appeasing those who want to confine big cats for entertainment or profit.

Specifically, this bill would allow Tony the Truck Stop Tiger to be kept isolated and on display at a truck stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana by his "owner," Michael Sandlin. His truck stop has been cited by the USDA in the past for unsanitary feeding practices, mishandling tigers, failure to provide veterinary care, lack of shelter from inclement weather, lack of clean drinking water, and no knowledgeable employees to care for the tigers -- but his exhibit has not been shut down.

This bill was designed to appease Sandlin, whose ownership of Tony the Tiger was already declared illegal by the Louisiana Court of Appeals. The fight for Tony is ongoing (read more here), and preventing this bill from passing is a crucial component of that fight.

Take Action:
Louisiana residents, use this form to contact Governor Jindal, and express your outrage that he signed SB 250!

Read the full text here.

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