Pro/Con: Is there adequate government oversight of exotic animal exhibits?
Yes: But attention would be better placed on 'scam-tuaries,' which are rarely monitored By Zuzana Kukol The question about government oversight of exhibits needs to be broken into two parts: traveling exhibits versus general, as there are quite a...
Yes: But attention would be better placed on 'scam-tuaries,' which are rarely monitored
By Zuzana Kukol
The question about government oversight of exhibits needs to be broken into two parts: traveling exhibits versus general, as there are quite a few differences.
Concerning traveling exhibits, yes, there is adequate government and public oversight. Remember that traveling exhibits are out in the public eye almost every day. Thousands of people are taking pictures and videos that could be evidence if real abuse was happening. With the advent of cell phone cameras and the Internet, cases of abuse would not be kept quiet for very long!
Enforcement of existing animal welfare laws (meaning more officers) is needed in cases of serious animal abuse. Passing more laws that won't be enforced will not help any animals.
There is a huge difference between animal abuse and animal discipline. Animal abuse would be beating your dog or tiger for no reason. Animal discipline is tapping your puppy or tiger cub on its mouth if mouthy.
While a puppy would feel your hand disciplining it, the tiger cub might not even notice; the human hand is much smaller and weaker than the paw of a tiger's mom.
Many complaints filed against traveling exhibits are done by extreme animal rights groups, whose definition of "abuse" is simply keeping animals in cages. To the extreme animal rights camp, extinction of tigers in the wild is better than saving them in captivity.
Some complainers are hypocritical exotic animal "scam-tuary" owners, who want to ban others, while exempting themselves. To these hypocrites, legitimate exotic animal business is serious competition and a threat to donations for their own pet collection.
I worry more about the huge, donation-dependent, often underregulated or unregulated (exempt from bans) sanctuaries that could use more government oversight. Some will not allow the public to visit. There is a fine line between hoarding and good animal husbandry.
Zuzana Kukol owns and trains exotic pets, including big cats. She lives in the Nevada desert and has been an exotic animal owner for more than 20 years. She is a cofounder of Responsible Exotic Animal Ownership, www. REXANO.org.Tammy Quist is the director and founder of The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone. She is a member of the American Sanctuary Association's Board of Directors.
No: Exhibitors may call themselves 'educators,' but too many exploit animals
By Tammy Quist
Not every tiger will walk on a leash or sit quietly in an exhibit cage. Traveling exhibitors breed surplus tigers so that they can get the "pick of the litter" for their events and photo ops. When cubs and adolescents don't make the cut, they often are sold at auction and to dealers who sell to the pet trade.
Surplus tigers are an epidemic in the U.S. and in Minnesota. There are only 4,000 tigers remaining in the wild and almost 10,000 kept as pets in the U.S. The United States is the top supplier of tiger parts to the black market. In the past three years, The Wildcat Sanctuary has helped remove 33 tigers from Minnesota's backyards.
At least 78 Minnesota cities now forbid such animals as tigers, elephants and bears being possessed in their cities, including Duluth. So isn't it hypocritical it to say a USDA-licenced exhibitor cannot live in our city because it is a public safety risk, but hauling animals in small transport crates from other cities is acceptable and safe? This "not in my backyard unless it is only for a week" mentality is unethical and does nothing to improve public safety.
There are too many people who are making their living carting exotic big cats around for exhibit. They call themselves educators. They claim to be exhibiting and breeding these animals to save them from extinction and raise public awareness through entertainment.
But the cats travel day after day in cramped, barren cages. They may be exposed to severe heat with minimal or no protection. They barely have enough room to turn around. Imagine being a tiger and never feeling grass under your feet or swimming in water. The only opportunity to run and jump is at the command of a trainer. Interaction with other tigers is forbidden unless it is for breeding. These animals are born tigers, yet never get the chance to be one.
The Wildcat Sanctuary is Minnesota's only accredited large animal sanctuary and assists local authorities to enforce Minnesota's Exotic Animal law and city and county ordinances. At our sanctuary, we house several "retired" exhibit cats that had nowhere to go once they were too old to breed or perform.
There is no valid reason to breed exotic cats for life in a cage. There are more humane ways to educate and entertain our children and families.
Tammy Quist is the director and founder of The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone. She is a member of the American Sanctuary Association's Board of Directors.