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For Immediate Release: 11/18/08

Cougar mauling illustrates need for stronger laws in Florida

With repeated incidents in 2008, Born Free USA calls on Florida legislature to act before another tragedy befalls the state

Palm Springs, FL — Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free USA), a national leader in wildlife conservation and animal advocacy, is calling on the Florida legislature to strengthen its laws on the keeping of exotic animals in private hands to include cougars and other dangerous wild animals after Saturday’s mauling of a South Florida teen by a cougar.

The 16-year-old girl suffered puncture wounds, cuts and scratches to her head, neck and arms, none of which are considered life-threatening.

“Though Florida has some laws on the books to oversee the keeping of dangerous wildlife in private possession, they are poorly enforced and contain too many loopholes,” said Nicole G. Paquette, Esq., Senior Vice President of Born Free USA. “Anyone can sidestep the existing law and obtain a lion, tiger, cougar, or bear. It is high time that the legislature put the brakes on this industry and puts an end to the private possession of all dangerous wild and exotic animals in Florida.

Florida is one of 10 states with only a partial ban on the private possession of exotic animals. Residents of Florida may not possess any Class I Wildlife which includes, but is not limited to chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, baboons, leopards, jaguars, tigers, lions, bears, elephants, and crocodiles. However, residents may possess Class II Wildlife if he or she obtains a permit. Class II Wildlife includes, but is not limited to, macaques, cougars, bobcats, cheetahs, ocelots, servals, coyotes, wolves, hyenas, and alligators.

In 2008 the state reported a large number of high-profile incidents involving privately-owned wild animals including last Augusts’ potentially dangerous escape of a lion and a tiger from an exotic animal facility in Loxahatchee; the sighting in July of a Japanese macaque outside of Castle Oak, though no permits for keeping such animals had ever been issued; the killing in June of a 7-foot python attacking birds in a Key Largo man’s yard; and the April escape of a troop of African patas monkeys from the embattled Salisbury Park Zoo. The monkeys are still on the loose.

“The owners of these animals are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives,” adds Paquette. “The number of reports from Florida regarding wild and exotic animal incidents is simply staggering. It is time the legislature take a strong stand and prohibit the private possession of cougars and other dangerous wildlife as well restrict possession at roadside zoos. How many more tragedies have to occur before action is taken to put an end to the burgeoning exotic animal trade in Florida?”

Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute is a leading non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the US and globally through legislation, litigation and public education. Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader on exotic animal legislation and a member of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition and the Species Survival Network. More information can be found at http://www.bornfreeusa.org.

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Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266

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