Readers' views: Big cats need more than chicken and cages

"(T)here is no cage that can provide the space and stimulation that any exotic cat needs."

The story of the O'Connors, told in Robin Washington's Feb. 1 column, "A what in Proctor? Cougar story ends on sad note," was very rare in that the family kept its cat for 16 years. My Big Cat Rescue group has been rescuing exotic cats from unwitting and unwilling owners since 1992. Of all the people I have ever known who had exotic cats as pets, only three kept their cats until the cats died in their teens.

At Big Cat Rescue, our cougars have been known to live up to nearly 30 years with proper care.

A chicken diet like the one the O'Connors reportedly followed is far from adequate for cougars. That, coupled with the family's difficulty in finding a veterinarian, meant the cat likely languished in pain and probably suffered brittle bones and other issues from a poor diet. This cat's life did end on a sad note, but what is even more sad is that the column may have left some people thinking it's OK to breed wild animals for life in cages.

Big cat incidents are not so rare. A partial listing of incidents in the U.S. involving captive exotic cats totals 578 since 1990. The incidents in the U.S. resulted in the deaths of 21 people (16 adults and five children), the mauling of 190 more adults and children, 169 escapes, the killing of 92 big cats and 121 confiscations.

The bigger issue is that there is no cage that can provide the space and stimulation that any exotic cat needs to be who they are hard-wired to be. Keeping them that way is just cruel, and I and others are working hard to pass legislation to protect wild cats from the fate of being bred and traded.


Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Legislation cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless."

Carole Baskin

Tampa, Fla.

The writer is CEO of Big Cat Rescue, an educational sanctuary home to more than 100 big cats.

'Immoral minority' used good sense in Franken vote

Al Franken and the Minnesota voters sending him to the U.S. Senate are the first victims of the doomsday wrath expressed by the writer of the Feb. 5 letter, "Election of Franken shows state's ignorance."

Nowhere in the letter, however, did the writer list or describe Franken's "lengthy history of immorality."

It was interesting that the two national parties and Franken's opponent, Republican Norm Coleman, went unmentioned in the letter. If the writer published his outrage during the Mark Foley, R-Fla., sex scandal, I missed it. I don't recall reading a word from this writer when Larry Craig, R-Idaho, or Bob Allen, R-Fla., were charged with unsavory behavior in recent months.

Yet the writer seemed bent on casting a self-righteous net over the "immoral minority" that governs the entire country. Let us not forget a majority of Minnesotans chose Franken to represent the state in Washington. A sizable majority of Americans sent Barack Obama to the White House and strengthened the Democrats' grip on both houses of Congress. About 80 percent of that electorate, by the letter writer's own estimate, "believe in God." The bottom line is that the writer's standard for judging elected officials seems more guided by capricious feel than by rational argument.


Are Minnesotans somehow more virtuous, somehow more worthy of redemption, if Coleman should win the election in the coming weeks?

The voters of Minnesota take a sensible, comprehensive approach when judging candidates for public office. I'm proud that Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District has re-elected pro-life Jim Oberstar 16 times. Last November, this same district overwhelmingly supported pro-choice Al Franken in his Senate bid. The views of open-minded Minnesotans do not always or neatly conform to the letter writer's religious agenda.

Finally, would the letter writer kindly explain what the gospel of St. Matthew has to do with Al Franken's election?

Frank Hedin


In Hibbing, parking violations are ignored

It was refreshing to read that Duluth enforces city parking ordinances ("Ticketed -- and fuming about it," Feb. 2).

That's unlike Hibbing, where I live and where violations are regularly ignored even after being brought to the attention of the police and city administrator. Examples include blocked sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to navigate around vehicles and parking on front lawns.

Either enforce parking restrictions -- "Section 9.17 off street parking regulations" -- or take them off the books.


Allen Johnson


Bush's compassion is plain for all to see

Years ago, when I first heard the term "compassionate conservatism," I wasn't sure what it meant. Now, after the past eight years, I think I have figured it out. As far as I can tell, it is giving huge tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations, giving companies such as Halliburton billions in no-bid contracts, providing lax oversight and regulation of financial markets, and invading a country because you have a personal dislike of that country's leader.

Jerry Wheeler


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