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For Immediate Release: 10/26/06

Tiger attack on USDA inspector renews call for immediate legislative action banning the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals

Columbus, OH — The Animal Protection Institute (API), a national animal advocacy organization, is renewing calls on Ohio legislators to immediately ban the ownership of dangerous wild and exotic animals after a tiger attacked a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian October 16. The attack occurred on the property of Lorenza Pearson, who has a long history of issues with animal welfare and public safety including the fatal mauling of his son by a tiger and a July 2006 trial on more than 950 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

API has repeatedly called on Ohio legislators to act on the public safety and animal welfare concerns it documented in a recent investigation into the state of exotic animal ownership and oversight in Ohio. In the last seven months, API has filed five complaints with the USDA regarding AWA violations at five Ohio facilities.

“API has provided clear, documented evidence that the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals presents a real danger to neighbors, communities, and the public at large,” says Nicole Paquette, Director of Legal and Government Affairs at API. “These incidents, and the fact that someone with more than 950 violations of the AWA is allowed to continue keeping animals, only corroborate our findings: the USDA is incapable of regulating these owners and the care of these animals. State legislation is the answer.”

API is currently working with Representative George Distel, who has introduced HR 643, a bill that regulates the private ownership of dangerous animals. The bill places significant restrictions on how these animals are to be housed and cared for.

“We’re hoping that this, and other recent incidents, spurs the legislature to hold a hearing prior to the end of the 2006 legislative session,” says Paquette. “There is absolutely no reason for members of the general public to be keeping lions, tigers, and bears as pets without any oversight or restriction. It’s a horrible life for animals and in terms of public safety, an accident waiting to happen. The question is — how many accidents have to happen before legislators act to protect the public rather than the interests of a small group of individuals?”

Other recent incidents include the May 2006 mauling of an Orwell, Ohio, woman by a USDA-licensed neighbor’s escaped bear. In July 2006, three wolves escaped from a home in Hanover, Ohio, and attacked a neighbor’s dog before they were shot to death. That owner also holds a USDA license, despite previous complaints by neighbors.

Ohio is 1 of only 11 states with no laws prohibiting the private possession of exotic animals such as wolves, cougars, tigers, bears, primates, and dangerous reptiles.

“The time has come for Ohio to step up to the plate,” adds Paquette.

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 from API’s investigation and USDA complaints is available upon request.

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

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