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For Immediate Release: 10/27/06

North Carolina investigation spurs ABC News “20/20” report

Animal advocates call for state legislation banning dangerous wild animals kept as pets

Raleigh, NC — A national animal advocacy group’s investigation into the state of exotic animals kept as pets in North Carolina spurred an in-depth investigation into the topic by the ABC News program, “20/20”, 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 North Carolina. North Carolina 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 North Carolina,” says Nicole Paquette, Director of Legal and Government Affairs of 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 just 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 and in March 2006, API filed USDA complaints against several of the North Carolina facilities investigated. The complaints 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. To date we are aware of no action taken by the USDA in response to our complaints.

On October 16, 2006, a woman was attacked and severely injured by a leopard at the New River Zoo, in Fleetwood, N.C., one of the facilities API filed a USDA complaint against.

“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. “Now is the time for the North Carolina legislature to act and pass a bill that prohibits dangerous exotic animals. This is an industry out of control.”

During the 2005 legislative session, in response to a 10-year-old boy who was mauled to death when he was pulled under a fence and into a cage by his aunt’s “pet” tiger, Senator John Garwood introduced legislation to prohibit dangerous animals in private possession. This bill failed to pass, but turned into a study bill.

Since 2005, when API began its investigation, 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 North Carolina as one of only 11 states with no regulations whatsoever.

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 co-sponsor of a N.C. study bill that directs a team of experts to study the dangers that these animals pose and come up with a solution to the problem. 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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