A New York lawmaker has introduced a bill to prohibit direct contact between the public and big cats and other dangerous animals at zoos, fairs and other places throughout the state. The law introduced by assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), would target facilities that regularly profit from charging the public a fee to hold and take photos these wild animals.
According to IFAW, about 10,000 big cats like tigers, lions and cougars are kept captive in the U.S. by private owners. Over the past two decades, 300 people have been mauled or injured by captive big cats, and 24 people have died -- five of them children. Though New York (along with 29 other states) bans owning big cats as pets, there is still no law against public contact with them.
"Though the photos may be cute and the animals may look sweet and fluffy, they are dangerous wild animals capable of serious violence, and the public should not be permitted to come into such close contact with them," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan). "Though some claim that these photo ops contribute to wildlife rescue or conservation, that's empty rhetoric that disregards the real danger here. My bill will protect the public and help keep big cats and other wild animals in safe conditions."
The bill would be a win for the animals, not just the people put at risk by them, according to a press release:
This for-profit industry requires an ongoing supply of big cat cubs and other young animals, prematurely separated from their mothers to be groomed for human handling. The animals often die due to constant human contact, and are even subjected to abusive training in a futile attempt to make them safe for public contact once they mature. After the animals grow too big for handling, they are often held on leashes with no protective barriers or are discarded to other substandard facilities where they often suffer from abuse and neglect.
IFAW is also spearheading the introduction of the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, which will prohibit people in the U.S. from keeping big cats as pets and breeding them for commercial exploitation. You can learn more about the Act and voice your support for it by sending a letter to your Representative here.