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For Immediate Release: 08/12/14

Born Free USA Applauds New York Governor for Signing Bill to End Irresponsible Public Contact with Exotic Cats

Washington, D.C. -- Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, commends Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing compassionate legislation into law today. S. 6903, introduced by long-time animal champion Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-67) and Senator Tony Avella (D-11), will prohibit direct contact between people and big cats.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, “We have been fighting cruel captivity for years, and believe that ending opportunities for public contact with potentially dangerous, innately-wild big cats is the right course of action for both animal welfare and human safety. We thank Governor Cuomo for singing this bill into law.”

Human contact with exotic animals serves no purpose other than commercial entertainment—petting or photo opportunities. Such interactive sessions threaten the safety and health of animals and humans; undermine conservation efforts; and encourage irresponsible and inhumane breeding.

It is standard in this exploitative industry to separate animal babies from their mothers, because young cats are easier to use in such exhibits. This is an inhumane and unhealthy practice that can lead to lifelong physical and psychological problems—and even death. It is well established that big cats raised in socially-isolated conditions develop self-destructive and aberrant behaviors. After the baby animals outgrow their use as photography or play props, they are often discarded. Roberts explains, “This process feeds a vicious cycle of breeding, repeatedly exploiting, and then dumping animals, which fuels the exotic pet trade. Many big cats end up being warehoused at shoddy roadside zoos, at pseudo-sanctuaries, or in the hands of other unqualified individuals. Wild animals belong in the wild.”

Dangerous exotic animal incidents are common, as demonstrated by Born Free USA’s Exotic Animal Incidents Database. For instance, a white tiger named Calcutta slashed the head of a 4-year-old boy at the Saratoga County Fair as the child posed in an exotic animal photo exhibit. Additionally, animals can carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans through direct contact.

“This new law creates commonsense restrictions that are long overdue,” says Roberts. “New York is setting an outstanding example, and I hope other states will follow. Born Free USA is part of a group that has petitioned the USDA to enact these rules this nationwide, and we will use this law as a precedent to continue fighting for that change.”

Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free USA’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org, www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa, and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

Media contact: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, (203) 270-8929.

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