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For Immediate Release: 04/07/06

Minnesota Woman Mauled to Death by Pet Tiger

Tragic situation highlights the dangers of wild animals kept as “pets”; supports findings from API national investigation

Sacramento, CA — A USDA-licensed exotic animal breeder from Minnesota was found mauled to death by a “pet” Bengal tiger last night. A man hired to work on the woman’s property found her body in the tiger’s cage. Authorities could not access the woman due to the tiger’s reportedly aggressive behavior, so the tiger was killed.

This tragic scenario highlights the problems associated with the private ownership of exotic animals in the U.S. The Animal Protection Institute’s (API) recent investigation into this issue is the most thorough on record and exposes disturbing evidence of a lack of concern for public safety and animal welfare by both private owners and federally-licensed facilities across the nation.

“This is a truly unfortunate incident but not one that should cause any surprise — we’re talking about dangerous wild animals, not domestic pets,” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of API. “Our recent investigation documented owners of these animals repeatedly putting themselves and members of the public at risk of injury or death. Tragically, yet another death has occurred and another animal has paid with his life.”

Major findings of API’s investigation included:

  • the widespread practice of organized “close encounters” where the public pay to have direct contact with dangerous animals, a violation of federal law
  • reckless behavior, putting owners and others, including children, in danger of attack
  • an alarming number of previously unreported injuries and attacks by exotic animals on owners and others
  • poor care and treatment causing suffering and distress to animals
  • cruel and inappropriate treatment and handling of exotic animals, including the bizarre spectacle of a “primate picnic” where owners proudly displayed monkeys dressed in human children’s clothes
  • an apparent disregard of various provisions of federal law by some facilities licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

“API’s investigation shows that the few regulations of private ownership of exotic animals that do exist fail to protect the public from the dangers these animals pose, and do little to protect the welfare of the animals themselves,” says Thew. “These wild animals do not belong in our homes or neighborhoods. How many more tragedies have to occur before action is taken to put an end to the private ownership of exotic animals?”

Across the country, millions of exotic animals are privately owned as “pets” or kept as “attractions” in roadside zoos and menageries — from lions, tigers and cougars to wolves, bears, dangerous reptiles, and monkeys. In addition to this tragic incident, there have been dozens of attacks by exotic animals in the past year alone, including:

  • an 80-year-old Illinois man killed by a loose bear at a former petting zoo (February 2006)
  • a 17-year-old Kansas girl killed by a privately-owned Siberian tiger during a photo shoot for her high school senior portrait (August 2005)
  • a 12-year-old Minnesota boy’s spine was severed after being attacked by a lion and tiger at an auto parts store where the animals were being kept as “pets” (June 2005)

API is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. API is a leader in the campaign to end the private ownership of exotic animals and has played a key role in state and local efforts to prohibit the possession of such animals. 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.

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.

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

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