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For Immediate Release: 07/27/06

Raid at N.C. zoo highlights need for legislation of dangerous wild animals

Recent investigation and USDA complaint documenting public safety and animal welfare issues heightens community concern

Charlotte, NC — The Animal Protection Institute (API), a national animal advocacy organization, is calling upon legislators to ban the ownership of dangerous wild and exotic animals in North Carolina. Events such as Tuesday’s police raid of the Metrolina Wildlife Park (also known as Charlotte Metro Zoo), API’s recent investigation of the facility, and subsequent March 2006 filing of a USDA complaint citing various violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, prove that legislation must be introduced during the next legislative session.

In its investigation, API documented animals kept in completely inadequate conditions, owner Steve Macaluso being bitten by a tiger, putting his head into the mouths of tigers, allowing members of the public to have direct contact with an adult tiger, and recklessly leaving a gate to a tiger enclosure open to visitors at the zoo.

Perhaps most disturbing were conditions documented inside a private residence on the grounds of the facility, where a young child was unsafely living with monkeys and tiger cubs, and even had direct access to an adult leopard kept under the porch of the house. Reportedly, this is the same residence from which state and federal officers recently recovered guns and drugs.

“We have provided clear, documented evidence that the ownership of wild and exotic animals presents a real danger to people and animals,” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of API. “The USDA is incapable of regulating these owners or the care of these animals and therefore, the public may be at risk. State legislation is the answer.”

North Carolina is one of only 12 states with no laws prohibiting the private possession of exotic animals such as cougars, tigers, bears, primates and dangerous reptiles. North Carolina has seen a number of serious incidents involving exotic animals in recent years, including the fatal 2003 attack of a 10-year-old boy and 2004 mauling of a 14-year-old girl, both by tigers kept as family pets.

“The owners of these facilities are playing roulette with people’s lives,” says Thew. “For the safety of people and animals in North Carolina, the legislature must act to prohibit dangerous wild and exotic animals from being kept in private hands.”

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 (AZA), including the North Carolina Zoo, each opposes the private ownership of certain exotic animals.

API works to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation and public education. API is a nationally recognized leader on exotic animal legislation and assists states in drafting and passing legislation. 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.

B-roll footage and still photos available; email press@api4animals.org.

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

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