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For Immediate Release: 06/22/06

Texas tiger mauling illustrates inadequacies of laws allowing people to keep dangerous wild animals as “pets”

Group calls for USDA investigation; both public safety and animal welfare at risk

Dallas, TX — The Animal Protection Institute (API), a national animal advocacy organization, is calling for a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigation into the mauling of a man by a tiger at a Kaufman County business. Don Roberts, a worker at Zoo Dynamics, a business that provides exotic animals for public exhibition, was severely mauled by a Bengal tiger who had scaled a reported 12- to 18-foot fence to attack.

This tragic incident highlights the problems associated with the private ownership of exotic animals in the U.S. API’s recent investigation into this issue is the most thorough on record and exposes disturbing risks to public safety and animal welfare at federally-licensed facilities across the nation. Zoo Dynamics is not an accredited sanctuary, it is a for-profit business whose web site advertises providing “very hard to maintain animals” for photo sessions, special events, and even school programs.

“API’s investigation shows that the few regulations of private ownership of exotic animals that do exist fail to protect people from the dangers these animals pose, and do little to protect the welfare of the animals themselves,” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of API. “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?”

This incident is one of hundreds that prove wild animals are not “tame” just because they are kept on a leash or in a cage. The natural instinct of a Bengal tiger is to stalk and, after a surprise attack, chase down its prey — exactly the circumstances of this case. API’s recent investigation documented owners of big cats noting this danger:

“The big cats pick out the smallest person in a crowd and then they think, you know, that’s the one I’m going for because that one will be easier to catch and then they focus on that person. They never take their eyes off. Y’know, we were teasing our daughter all the time that if she’s not good we’re going to throw her in with [the cougar].” (Owner of USDA-licensed facility in Ohio and representative of an organization that actively lobbies against banning the ownership of exotic cats)

Zoo Dynamics is licensed by the USDA and its fencing appears to be in compliance with USDA and Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requirements. Marcus Cook, a Zoo Dynamics spokesperson, is also a board member of the Feline Conservation Foundation, a group that lobbies on behalf of private ownership of exotic animals. This shows that even individuals who claim to be “experts” do not have the capability to control these dangerous animals and that the current regulations put in place by the AWA are inadequate.

“This is a truly unfortunate incident but not one that should cause any surprise — we’re talking about dangerous wild animals, not domesticated animals,” says Thew. ”We ask that the USDA immediately investigate this incident and use the tragedy of this man’s unnecessary, and serious, injury to significantly strengthen the laws protecting these animals, the people who keep them, and the public put at risk by them.”

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 outside San Antonio, TX, 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.

DVD b-roll and still images on CD are available upon request; email press@api4animals.org.


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

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