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For Immediate Release: 10/27/06

Washington State investigation spurs ABC News “20/20” report

Animal advocates call for state legislature to ban dangerous wild animals kept as pets

Olympia, WA — A national animal advocacy group’s investigation into the state of exotic animals kept as pets in the state of Washington spurred an in-depth investigation into the topic by the ABC News program, “20/20”, and aired Friday, October 27.

In February 2006, the Animal Protection Institute (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 in Washington. Washington has no laws governing the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals.

“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 Washington State,” says Nicole Paquette, Director of Legal and Government Affairs for API. “We’re glad that our footage spurred ‘20/20’ to also investigate this issue and we 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 sit back and do nothing.”

API’s investigation exposed evidence of a widespread lack of concern for public safety and animal welfare by both private owners and federally-licensed facilities. In March 2006, API filed USDA complaints against several of the Washington state facilities investigated. The investigation documented various issues including USDA-licensed facilities allowing 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 lion, tigers, bears, wolves, and primates, leaving Washington as one of only 11 states with no regulations whatsoever.

“These exotic wild animals do not belong in our homes, neighborhoods, or at roadside zoos. It is irresponsible, unnecessary, and a disaster waiting to happen,” says Paquette. “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, once again, reintroducing legislation in Washington and we urge constituents to voice their concerns to legislators. This is an industry out of control.”

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, and is the sponsor of HB 1151 in Washington State. API 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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