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For Immediate Release: 10/26/06

Animal Protection Institute investigation spurs ABC News “20/20” report

Sacramento, CA — The Animal Protection Institute (API)’s nationwide investigation in to the state of exotic animals kept as pets has spurred an in-depth investigation into the topic by the ABC News program, “20/20”, aired Friday, October 27.

In February 2006, API released the results of an extensive investigation into the largely unregulated private ownership of exotic wild animals kept as pets or used as attractions at unaccredited roadside zoos and menageries across the U.S. The investigation focused on states that have no laws governing the private ownership of exotic animals and uncovered the weaknesses of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in overseeing exotic animals on display. It exposed disturbing evidence of a lack of concern for public safety and animal welfare by both private owners and federally-licensed facilities.

“API’s investigation proves that when it comes to the ownership of dangerous exotic animals, including tigers, bears, and primates, there are serious animal welfare and public safety issues in this country,” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of API. “We’re glad that our footage spurred ‘20/20’ to make its own investigation of the issue, and call on the USDA and state lawmakers to take immediate steps to protect the public before another person is seriously injured or killed. Our government officials can no longer just sit back and do nothing.”

API’s investigation documented various issues such as USDA-licensed facilities allowing members of the public, including children, to have direct contact with dangerous animals; unreported attacks and injuries on humans; poor care and treatment of animals; and cruel and inappropriate treatment and handling of animals.

Since 2005, when API began its investigation, dozens of people have been attacked, and many even killed, by exotic animals. In the past two years, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maryland have passed legislation banning the ownership of certain dangerous animals such as lions, tigers, bears, wolves and primates, leaving only 11 states with no regulations whatsoever.

“These animals do not belong in our homes, our neighborhoods, or at roadside zoos. It is irresponsible, unnecessary, and a disaster waiting to happen,” says Thew. “For the safety of the animals, and the people around them, legislative action must be taken to put an end to the private ownership of dangerous, exotic animals. API will be working with legislators across the nation to stop this practice before more people, and animals, are killed.”

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 dangerous exotic animals, the sponsor of most of the legislation addressing exotic animal possession, and also manages a 186-acre Primate Sanctuary, 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.

Members of the media may access an API investigation press kit at www.api4animals.org/c1_presskits.php or by emailing press@api4animals.org.

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

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