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For Immediate Release: 02/27/08

Hands-on wild animal event outrages national animal advocacy group

Will Chehalis City Council end public display of dangerous wild animals?

Seattle, WA — Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free USA) today called on Chehalis City Council to prohibit public displays of wild and exotic animals. This request is a direct response to last weekend’s gathering of the Phoenix Exotic Wildlife Association at Yard Birds Mall, where, according to Born Free USA, the public was put at risk by allowing people, including children, to have direct contact with dangerous and unpredictable wild animals owned by Predators of the Heart.

“The risk that someone is going to get hurt or worse is very real and frightening,” said Nicole G. Paquette, Esq., Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Born Free USA. “Born Free USA has documented evidence of more than 30 injuries and deaths caused by captive wild and exotic animals in the U.S. in the last two years alone. In reality, that figure is likely to be considerably higher. Washington State already banned the private possession of dangerous wild animals; individual cities now need to step up and take the extra precaution of banning all public display of these animals to ensure public safety.”

In 2007, Born Free USA (then the Animal Protection Institute) co-sponsored HB 1418, which successfully banned the private possession of dangerous wild animals in Washington State. People currently possessing listed species under the bill, such as Washington state members of the Phoenix Exotic Wildlife Association, can keep their animals for the remainder of the animal’s life but may not then replace the animal. At the time, Washington was one of only 11 states that did not restrict this dangerous practice.

The year before, our organization filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) documenting violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act by Predators of the Heart owner David Coleburn. This complaint documented various instances where our investigators were allowed repeated, direct contact with bobcats Mr. Coleburn attested he had been severely injured by in the past.

“Displaying dangerous wild animals and non-native wildlife does not teach people about wild animals and the survival challenges they face in their natural habitats,” adds Paquette. “The owners of these facilities are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives. Chehalis and other cities should work to prevent future tragedies, both human and animal, by ending the public display of dangerous wild and exotic animals.”

Born Free USA (www.bornfreeusa.org) is a national non-profit animal welfare and conservation organization and a member of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition (www.cwapc.org).

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Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266

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