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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

The Cow and the Tiger

Published 08/03/10
By Susan Trout, Program Assistant

No, this is not one of those strange stories about cross-species love and friendship. It's analogy of the dangers posed by private ownership of exotic, "wild" animals.

A story broke here in Sacramento on Tuesday about a dairy cow that was shot and killed at the California State Fair Grounds. It created a firestorm of complaints and website comments reaching as far away as Australia! Regardless of what the news media reports, the manner in which authorities handled this unfortunate incident is highly questionable to say the least.

So what does killing a cow have to do with tigers? Well, if you draw this analogy, a lot. What I want to pull from this tragic situation is how dangerous it is for members of the general public to make "pets" of wild, exotic animals like lions and tigers and large, powerful reptiles such as boa constrictors and monitor lizards. These animals are not domesticated, even though many continue to be bred in captivity. A Holstein cow is a domesticated animal, normally placid and benign—not really a threat to people. This cow was pregnant and very near to giving birth and probably in a lot of discomfort. She was agitated and stressed. Her reactions were actually quite normal but they certainly demonized her in the press.

Imagine if that cow had been a large predator, say a Siberian tiger? Siberians are the largest species of Tigers. They can easily exceed 600 pounds. A man doesn't stand a chance if they decide to attack. They will grab a person by the head or neck and crush bones and flesh with one bite of their powerful jaws. They are wild and they are unpredictable. Yet, according to a recent article, 7,000 tigers live in captivity and far too many of that number are living in private ownership, treated as pets.

It's no secret that man's encroachment on the environments of creatures world-wide is overwhelming. Add to that illegal poaching and the situation becomes dire. But the answer to this desperate problem is not to capture these animals and put them in zoos or, worse, allow people to obtain permits to run roadside zoos and so-called sanctuaries where they actually breed them and sell them to anyone with the money and permit to have one. Instead, our government should be taking this issue very seriously and enacting federal laws that protect big cats, severely restricting and, in certain circumstances OUTLAWING, the private ownership of dangerous wild animals. People who confuse conservation and preservation with breeding and private ownership must become educated. The solution is to work with the governments of each of these countries and assist them where possible to strengthen laws that prevent poaching, increase penalties so they are a strong deterrent, and educate and encourage their citizens to become personally involved on some level to save these animals, knowing they are a preserving a valuable part of their world.

The reasons for preventing private ownership of exotic animals can be found here.

If you scroll through this significant list, you will find the details of two of the incidents referred to in the Newsweek article, including the direct link to the original news story.

Ending the private ownership of wild animals is not a scheme to raise money for animal charities. It's not a subversive attack on our personal freedoms. It is a rational and reasonable attempt to protect all citizens. For just as this poor cow was gunned down because she broke free of her handlers and became frightened, the ultimate outcome for an escaped big cat or a dangerous pet bear is quite often the same fate. The sad reality is that if humane restraint and capture methods fail, the animal is always the loser. He pays the ultimate price—he dies!

There is good news, though! You can help to end the dangerous and frequently abusive practice of exotic animal possession. There are two bills pending in Congress right now that could bring significant change. Please write to your officials and ask them to sponsor, or vote "Yes" when they have the opportunity to act.

And, to go one step further and give you a real "feel-good" kick, see this news article. No, we can't save ‘em all, but we've saved these guys (and gals!). Be sure to check back frequently on their progress as they settle into their new home! And if it's possible, send a donation—a "house-warming" gift if you will! They won't be able to thank you but if they could, you bet they would!

Since we're their voice, we say... THANK YOU!

Til next time,


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