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For Immediate Release: 05/10/06

National Investigation Confirms Private Homes Not Acceptable for Seized Houston Exotic Animals

Sacramento, CA — Calls to place recently rescued exotic tigers and bears from Gonzales County with private “pet” owners are being dismissed by the Animal Protection Institute (API), a national animal advocacy group whose recent groundbreaking investigation has demonstrated the plight of wild exotic animals kept as “pets.” Video footage obtained by API exposes a general lack of concern for animal welfare by private owners who, despite claims of lobbying groups, are not regulated by any federal government agency, the federal Animal Welfare Act, or by the majority of state regulatory agencies.

Across the country, millions of exotic animals are privately owned — from lions, tigers, and cougars to wolves, bears, dangerous reptiles, and monkeys. Frequently, these animals are found living in substandard conditions that fail to meet their physical and psychological needs. Often bought as cute babies over the Internet or from breeders, these dangerous wild animals become unpredictable and aggressive, attacking their owners and others.

“Though lobbyists for exotic pet owners contend they are highly regulated and must adhere to high standards of care for animals, the fact is that what laws do exist across the country suffer from lack of enforcement, and Texas is no exception,” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of API. “Our investigation documented the lack of state oversight on the issue and the problems that can arise when there is an industry out of control. It would be horribly irresponsible to place those animals back into the same unregulated situation from which they were just rescued.”

API’s investigation documented various breaches of federal law including private owners allowing children to have direct contact with dangerous wild animals such as bears and tigers, mishandling of animals, and poor care of animals. The video also documents various private owners, including spokespeople from groups who claim to represent the “responsible” side of private ownership, keeping their own exotic animals in poor conditions, admitting to attacks by their animals, commenting on people’s widespread inability to care for exotic animals, and discussing how reckless private owners can be.

“Confiscations like the one playing out in Houston, and cities nationwide, prove only that when people are allowed to keep wild animals as pets, the animals are the ultimate losers,” says Thew. “These cute, cuddly babies quickly turn into what they really are — dangerous wild animals. Our investigation showed, over and over again, that private citizens are not capable of properly caring for these animals and it’s the animals who suffer for it.”

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. This groundbreaking investigation has been launched at a crucial time, as the dangers posed by exotic animals continue to hit the headlines and important legislative initiatives are currently being debated in a number of key states.

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 near San Antonio, Texas, 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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