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For Immediate Release: 02/23/06

Major Investigation Exposes the Dangerous Reality of Exotic “Pets” in Washington as Critical Bill Languishes in Senate

Sacramento, CA — The Animal Protection Institute (API) today released the results of an extensive investigation into the largely unregulated private ownership of exotic wild animals kept as “pets” or used as “attractions” at roadside zoos and menageries. The video footage and accompanying report are the most thorough on record and expose disturbing evidence of a lack of concern for public safety and animal welfare by both private owners and federally licensed facilities across the nation and specifically, in Washington state. Major findings include:

  • private owners that put themselves and others, including children, in danger of attack
  • a number of previously unreported injuries and attacks by exotic animals on owners and others
  • public safety concerns including inadequate barriers and visitors allowed direct contact with dangerous exotic animals
  • poor animal care conditions.

Washington currently has no laws governing the keeping, display, breeding or selling of animals such as bears, cougars, tigers and primates. API is the sponsor of the original HB 1151, first introduced in 2000, which would prohibit the future private ownership of exotic animals in the state.

“This issue has been studied by Washington legislators for the past five years and the evidence this investigation brings to light proves that this is a serious and dangerous issue. They must act now to protect the public and the animals.” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of API.

Just this week, HB 1151 was amended to become a study bill, essentially stripping it of its original intent — to protect animals and people.

“We call upon all Senators to respond to the disturbing findings of our investigation, and vote to reinstate the original bill. They must ensure once and for all that the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals is banned throughout the state,” says Nicole Paquette, Esq., API’s Director of Legal and Government Affairs.

Washington has seen at least 20 reported exotic animal incidences since 2000 including a tiger attack on a Lewis County boy last September. Other states have also seen such incidents. For example, in August, a 17-year-old Kansas girl was killed by a privately owned Siberian tiger while posing for her senior portrait; and in June a 12-year-old Minnesota boy’s spine was severed after being attacked by a lion and tiger at a store where they were being kept as pets.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Animal Control Association, and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association each oppose the private ownership of certain exotic animals.

API is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. API also manages a 186-acre Primate Sanctuary that is currently home to more than 400 primates, many of whom were rescued from abusive or exploitative private ownership situations. For more information, visit www.api4animals.org.

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A press kit including report highlights, DVD b-roll and video report, or still images on CD are available upon request; email press@api4animals.org.


Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute (API), 916-447-3085 x205

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