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For Immediate Release: 03/09/06

National Group Names Washington One of Worst States for Dangerous Exotic “Pets”

Despite proof from groundbreaking investigation, and broad public support, Senate stalls on critical bill to protect public safety and animal welfare

Seattle, WA — The Animal Protection Institute (API) today named Washington state one of the worst states in the nation for dangerous exotic animals in private hands. The Washington state legislature has again allowed important legislation protecting public safety and animal welfare lapse by allowing HB 1151, the “Dangerous Wild Animal Bill,” to die on the floor without a final vote. This bill has been before the legislature for the past six years. Washington is one of only 13 states with no laws prohibiting the private possession of exotic animals such as cougars, tigers, bears, primates and dangerous reptiles.

At least 20 injuries and deaths caused by privately owned exotic animals have been reported in the U.S. in the last year alone; including an August 2005 incident involving a Lewis County boy bit by a tiger. A recent investigation conducted by API examined both private owners and federally-licensed facilities in various states, including Washington, and documented:

  • Private owners describing previously unreported, and many times serious, attacks by their animals; admitting how dangerous the animals are, despite their public claims to the contrary
  • People, including children, being allowed direct contact with dangerous animals at USDA- licensed facilities, a violation of federal law
  • Poor animal care conditions
  • Inadequate and unsafe barriers at both federally-licensed facilities and private homes

“This is a serious issue of public safety and animal welfare that normally progressive Washington state has chosen to ignore,” says Michelle Thew, CEO of API. “As evidenced by our investigation and incidents across the U.S., these animals are dangerous wild animals — they are time bombs waiting to explode.”

“Despite broad legislative and public support including the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Washington Associations of Cities and Counties, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies and accredited zoos, the Washington state legislature has chosen to again turn a blind eye to the dangers these animals pose. API will be back again next year to fight for these animals and the people endangered by them,” says Nicole Paquette, API’s Director of Legal and Government Affairs.

Adds Thew, “Exotic wild animals belong in the wild, not in our homes and neighborhoods. We’re disappointed that the Washington state Senate has again ignored public safety concerns, animal welfare concerns, and the concerns of its people. Washington, by choosing not to prohibit private possession of these dangerous wild animals, continues to risk another tragedy.”

API is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education; and the sponsor of HB 1151 in Washington State. API also manages a 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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DVD b-roll and still images available by mail or download

Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute (API), 916-447-3085 x205, press@api4animals.org

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