Inside The Exotic Animal Trade in America – The Plight of Tigers in The U.S.


oh stunning statistics is that there are more
tigers in captivity in the US then there now are in the wild a situation we’re under the USDA regulations the cage only
needs to be big enough for the animal to stand up and turn around in so you can only imagine
the small cages that people build that are actually legal you know could potential be in our
backyards right now Tiger crisis it didn’t get to this point if everybody was aware that tigers
need to be protected and tigers while tigers belong in asia in the wild in
their natural forest when you see the kinds of places these animals live
you start to realize that in some cases its a fate worse than death hi i’m kristin bauer for the animal legal defense fund my character the vampire pam on true blood fends for herself just fine in her
unlikely louisiana home but for one wild animal in particular
Louisiana is the last place on earth he belongs tony is a siberian bengal tiger who has been living on display as a tourist attraction at a truck stop
outside baton rouge since two thousand and one in the wild tony might roam a territory
of one hundred square miles but for the last decade he has instead lived in a concrete enclosure plagued by the noise of diesel engines
and the stench of gasoline years of living in isolation and
confinement have taken their toll on tony’s health day after day this magnificent cat is taunted and harassed by tourists instead of basking in the sun and hunting by night tony paces his cage a sign of extreme psychological distress
confining a wild animal as a road side spectacle
is wrong join me and the animal legal defense in urging the state of louisiana to revoke the permit that allows tony to be kept at the tiger truck stop a state law that violates a permit designed to protect people and big cats like tony help us win the fight for his freedom visit aldf.org/ tony thank you hello and welcome to the educational
forum i’m your host diane sullivan i have been an animal advocate and a lawyer for many years but i have to admit that i did not know
about the plight of tigers living in the united states until a former student rose church
called me explained the problem and aced for my help what i found out is that there are two
issues the first issue contributing to the tiger
problem is what they call pay to play carol baskin the founder and c_e_o_
of big cat rescue explains what pay to play is and its
impact on tigers we track all of the killings maulings and escapes by big
cats on our website at bigcatrescue.org and what was happening was there were so
many people that were being mauled by while they were paying to pet tigers or have their
pictures made with tigers that u_s_d_a_ created a… requirement that you could not touch a
big cat a lion tiger leopard after it reached the age of twelve weeks because they became too dangerous
because they’re wild animals they’re tigers right ok in the case of haley
hildebrand she was a seventeen year old girl it was very common her area where she lived in
kansas to have your picture made with a tiger for your yearbook and so like all these other kids had
done she went to this facility had her picture made with this six
hundred pound tiger who killed her during the photoshoot as a result there was a huge outcry for
a bill called hailey’s act that would end the uh… contact with these animals u_s_d_a_ had already said that you
couldn’t touch them after the age of twelve weeks u_s_d_a_ came back and said you can’t
touch the cub up until the age of eight weeks and the reason for that is the cub
doesn’t have sufficient immune uh… immune system to be able to deal with all of the
handling so what that did was it created an
eight to twelve week window a one month window in which people can still pay to touch
these tigers and as long as people will pay to touch
these tigers breeders and dealers will breed excessively to meet that demand it really comes back to the public if
you could just stop the public from doing this it would save so many lives so let me make sure i have this straight i could perhaps go to a mall and pay twenty dollars or
maybe seventy five dollars have my twenty twenty ok have my picture taken with a tiger cub who is between
the ages of eight weeks and twelve weeks and and and then i’d would leave with
this cute little picture and the memory now if somebody is making money out of this
which i’m assuming they must be otherwise why would we have this going
on they would have to be breeding it would
seem to me a tremendous amount of tigers each and every year to
ensure that they have cubs between the ages of eight and twelve
weeks am i right about this that’s correct do you have any idea of how big
a businesses this is we know that one vendor who said that he could make over
twenty thousand dollars in a single weekend at the mall i know another person that breeds these
animals who i’d had gotten a copy of an email he had sent around saying he needed
two hundred cups per year just to be able to have all of his
photo booths stocked these photo booths are just they travel
around to malls they put the cubs down on the floor in a cage you go in you
have a picture made with the cub and these cubs are being just constantly
awakened and handled by the public these are cubs that would spend two years or
more with their mothers so the mothers are being just bread to death to be
able to provide these cubs for this purpose and it’s a horrible life for
both the mother and for the cub but you can imagine being jostled awake every time you’ve tried to
finally drift off to sleep these guys need a lot of sleep as cubs but every time somebody comes
up with ten or twenty dollars to have their picture made picture their jerking that cub
up and making the picture with them so if there is only this one month window of
opportunity to have your picture taken with a tiger cub what happens to the tiger cub when its thirteen weeks old or maybe even a year
old or particularly when it’s full grown
because we all know that a tiger cub grows into a tiger and they really
are not suitable house pets what happens to them unfortunately we don’t
know in many cases where these animals end up the ones we do know about always end up in horrible situations
where they end up needing to be rescued because like you somebody will
take this animal in as a pet and think well it was used for these photo ops and
its handleable so its going to be this great pet and then it gets to be a year year and a half and they’re like two hundred pounds by
then and the people are scared to death of them and they can’t find a place fast
enough to unload their animal tell me how they live that at your
sanctuary what’s life like for a tiger there i’ve seen some delightful pictures of
tigers actually even painting to amuse themselves the biggest challenge that we
face is trying to meet the emotional needs of these cats you’re talking about cats that in the wild
which room four hundred square miles of territory
that would be their home base so there’s no cage that’s going to be
giving them a sufficient life we do an awful lot of the stuff like
you’re talking about giving them pumpkins and uh… watermelons in pools
and a lot of interaction we don’t do any hands on interaction with the cats just talking to them and trying to make their lives as
pleasant and as peaceful as possible the bigger issue is that we need to end the
abuse at its start because there aren’t enough sanctuaries and even if they are
take their word these cats just don’t belong in cages the biggest leading cause for so many of these animals to end up in
these horrific situations are that people will pay to have their
picture made with a cute little tiger cub and you can imagine how how much people want to do that they’re
soooo cute and they will always justify it by saying
well it’s just this one time and even the people seem to know that there’s
something inherently wrong about the whole situation about why am i a able to
touch this cub where’s the cubs mother they still manage to justify it by
saying this one-time won’t make a difference
this is something i want to do this is something i want to give as a gift
and the result is that the people that breed these animals will constantly
be breeding more and more cubs to supply that demand if the public would stop than the
breeding would stop and this whole thing would just die out over time the other major issue facing tigers in the united
states is that there are no federal regulations
prohibiting people who want to keep tigers as pets pet ownership is a matter of state law
and some states do not regulate the keeping of tigers or other exotic
animals today twenty one states allow private citizens to keep a tiger as
pat with as little a requirement as a license or permit and some do not even
require that yes that’s correct and with the u_s_ fish and wildlife service
because there’s no permitting requirement there’s no tracking system so we really don’t have a sense of how
many of these tigers there are out there so people can buy these tigers
on craig’s list or facebook and you know with no training at all you
basically can keep them like a domestic cat the problem is after about six
months old they become a huge tiger and than they bascially become confined to a
small cage you know living in somebodys backyard or in a basement
you know a situation of an apartment building and you know it basically outs
the actual homeowner from whatever living quarters their in did you ever envision yourself as
going to the pet store or a barn down the street or craigslist and
getting a tiger not not at all to me the whole concept is completely
inconceivable it just when i heard about this situation and how
prevailant it is in the united states i was just in shock and i think it took
me probably three or four days to really
come to the realization that this is a real issue and something thats really happening describe
some of the backyard scenes that tigers are kept in well the ones that i’ve seen
which have been mainly from rescue centers where they actually have gone and rescued these
backyard tigers they basically live in deplorable conditions these basically in just flat concrete cells that
are you know no bigger than the size of a parking space and it’s completely
legal under the regulations as they are right now and it’s it’s really sad because the
tires actually pace which is something that they shouldn’t actually be doing
and they are not given any type of natural habitat so they’re basically
out there you know in the in a concrete not out in the wild as they
should be pacing back and forth with basically nothing to do and they’re given
probably not even enough meat that they’re supposed to have why did you get
involved with trying to help with put and end to the problems surrounding the life of
tigers in the united states i first got involved working for a non-profit
which was one of my pro-bono projects and we’re really looking at the tony the
tiger situation down in louisiana and doing research for that i realized that you know tony was just one of maybe
fifteen thousand tigers within the united states and that really there is a
serious problems with the laws and regulations and you know as an attorney
i felt like is kind of my duty to step in and try to solve the problem in whatever capacity i can while doing research on the tiger
problem we spoke with individuals from a few of
the animal welfare organizations about their thoughts on the tiger problem adam roberts is the executive vice
president of born free u_s_a adam has significant expertise in
international wildlife trade and captive wild animals and he serves on several
committees including animals in captivity born for u_s_a_’s is a national
animal advocacy and wildlife conservation organization and we have offices in california in
d_c_ and elsewhere but we also operate a primate sanctuary
down in texas and our basic philosophy much like our
partners in the u_k_ at born free foundation is to keep wildlife in the wild it’s a
very simple message so that were uh… against the keeping of animals in
captivity provided that it’s not humane captivity it’s kind of
complicated because of course when we have a sanctuary for primates that’s captivity but we try and give
them as naturalistic an environment as
possible so that they can live out the remainder of their days in peace with
limited human interference in a natural surrounding juxtaposed against treatment of animals
in circuses or when they’re caught for their fur or when they’re killed in the
wild for their parts i want to talk a little bit about zooz and circuses and your position on that and ask you whether animals can really
be kept humanely and safely in those conditions well i think under certain
circumstances you might be able to i think the bottom line is
that the way i see the modern zoo is that
it’s more for the human visitor than it is for the animals and as long as its created that way and run
that way it’s not going to be a humane enterprise and so really have to i think
break the entire zoo mold and start over again what i could see is
that zoos eventually evolved into sanctuaries where they’re not breeding
animals they’re not importing them into from the wild but they’re actually
serving as rescue facilities so that when someone is caught with tigers in
their backyard and they’re confiscated they have a place to put that animal that can better tend to their needs
them what they had before or if a bear cub for example as orphaned in
the wild there’s a place for that animal to go when that is the most humane alternative tell me about born free’s position on the tiger problem here in the united
states well it feeds right into everything i’ve
been talking about in terms of keeping wildlife in the wild i mean obviously
when people are keeping tigers in captivity these are apex predators and you
can’t sort of breed that or take that out of the animal so no matter what construct you put that
tiger into when that tiger is in captivity and more importantly when that tigers in
captivity around humans it’s a recipe for disaster and so part
of our situation is trying to keep them protected in the wild but also out of
human hands here in the united states and and so
we fight against the exotic pet trade where people have tigers in their back
yards their apartments their living rooms literally because we knew the human interactions
that that causes and the fatalities in other injuries that come as a result i’m a lawyer and i happen to know that
what animals are kept somebody’s home or in their yard is a matter of state law it does seem
incredulous that somebody would think it would be ok to keep a tiger in their
backyard but i understand that that’s a great problem here in the united states
that in certain states that have no regulations to prohibit it people keep tigers as pets yeah that’s right in fact it’s popularly known thought but we think it’s fairly certain that
there are more tigers in captivity in human hands in the united states than there are left in the wild which for us is an alarming statistic to
think about you know when you have maybe three thousand tigers left in the wild
where they belong it really is alarming and and concerning
for us and the other problem is that some
states are particularly problematic in fact texas where there’s a proliferation of
tigers in captivity there may be more tigers in captivity in texas than
there are in india which is the one remaining stronghold of the
wild population of tigers so it really is incongruous to me how a people could want to keep these
dangerous animals and b that states would allow these animals to be kept the why of that
why would you want a tiger in your backyard kept in a little tiny enclosure why would
you want to do that i think i can kind of understand that part of it and it goes like this either it’s because you want to have the
biggest baddest animal on the block and it used to be the doberman and then
it was the rottweiler and now it’s the lion cub or the tiger
cub and that eventually grows in to a pretty large and domineering animal but on the other hand as a parent i
can understand too when you see a cub a tiger cub that is a cute and cuddly that is
incredibly affable gregarious playful the problem is that when the person
acquires that animal they don’t realize that eventually that
animal is gonna become a three hundred four hundred-pound monster yeah and then
it becomes dangerous and that’s where you have animals that are either
released into the wild of this country so that their roaming around the streets
of birmingham or are they end up being the humane society’s problems or
dumped on a local facility or they’re taken out into public on a
leash and actually bite people so that’s really what the problem comes in so i
can see the desire to acquire the animal that for some people unlike me there’s there’s not the separation there
where they say okay that’s a cute animal but i wouldn’t want own one or have my
child around one and for some people that uh… leap doesn’t ever get bridged a few years back maybe a half a dozen
at this point i remember reading in the new york times about the tiger that was in an
apartment in harlem i think it was and you know the rescue on officers had to
calm down the skyscraper and go through the window to try to sedate the tiger to
get it out at the apartment building how does a tiger end up in a
public housing apartment building in new york city is it because it was purchased
legally somewhere and then transported here illegally yet it could be acquired in any number of ways
it could be legally acquired or illegally acquired obviously it depends on the
state where the problem is happening and when you have a situation where you
know in connecticut it’s illegal to own a tiger but in pennsylvania you can get
a permit to own one it’s very easy with that patchwork of
state laws to acquire the animals and move them around in interstate commerce
and so people get these animals and they get
them in their houses and i for one if i was the super of that
building wouldn’t want to go tell that to get rid of the tiger i think he
also have some big reptiles like an alligator that i think that’s right now
that you say that so i’d be a little fearful about going into that apartment i
think that’s what people prey on another problem with respect to
tigers and particularly tiger cubs that grow in to tigers is this pay for play notion at the local
malls where in certain states i guess exhibitors bring tiger cubs and during a
period where the tiger cubs is eight to twelve weeks old you can go play with it or have
your picture taken and it’s a big moneymaker for the exhibitor could you
comment on that and how much that contributes to the breeding and the
problem with tigers here in this country yeah well as long as there’s going to be
profit made by showing those animals to the public allowing the public and to
interact with those animals and take pictures with those animals
there’s going to be a problem with those animals long-term first it it feeds the breeding because obviously
when there’s profit to be made there are people who were going to want that money and greed takes over you going to breed the animals and try and
display them to make a buck but then what happens when the animals
are too old to show will they either get shipped off to some substandard facility
where the lifestyle is horrible and their uh… inhumanley treated or
they’re killed for their parts and we have evidence that the need of these tigers ends up in the
trade in the meat trade exotic meat trade or the animals end up as we’ve talked
about in somebody’s backyard as a pet so it really does feed the problem to
allow these animals to be shown to the public and of course in some situations you
have animals that are alder being showed in the public that
are more grown up and there was one instance in the
midwest where somebody was killed a teenage girl was killed by an animal during a
photo op so you think that having an animal like a tiger on a leash is
somehow going to be ok but obviously it’s just not lets talk a little bit about the
international trade of tiger parts the problem of some of the folk
lore of the chinese believing that tiger bones put in
medicine or stews or whatever they’re used in is something that I would imagine
born free is up against that’s right it is a huge problem uh… the international trade in tiger
parts much like the international trade in elephant ivory or rhino horn or bear
gall bladder hugely profitable on the black market and while the international
community does not allow legally the movement of tiger parts it’s illegal to
trade internationally in these parts uh… the profit that can be made by the
illegal trade is pretty enormous and so you have tiger penis tiger bone
wine tiger skins clause teeth everything having a market value on the black
market yeah now two of the problems that comes from that
relate to the source of these animals uh… on the one hand you have businessmen in china who are quote
unquote forming the strikers keeping them in these breeding facilities and
spending thousands and thousands of dollars to maintain the animals every
year and so naturally they’re putting pressure on the government who in turn but for puts pressure on the
international community to open up the legal trade so that those businessmen can finally see some profit on their
investment but as long as that’s happening as long
as theirs pressure and there’s a black market for these items there are poachers
who are paying a dollar for a bullet and taking the animals from the wild to
feed into the trade so really as long as that international trade happens and there’s not a firm message from all the
governments around the world including china that it shouldn’t be happening
tigers are going to be vulnerable in the wild is their anything our viewers can do
to help with getting a message out there that
this is not acceptable yeah well really it would help for them to contact us
at born free so that we can take that message forward when we go to these international treaty
meetings uh… it’s called the convention on international trade in
endangered species and they’re a hundred and seventy five
hundred seventy six countries that participate including the united states and we need
to be able to tell the international community including the united states government that our citizens are strongly against any
trade-in uh… tiger parts uh… but then also writing to the government
itself write to the department of the interior let them know that we need strong as possible
regulations globally to prevent any tigers from being killed
for the trade last question tony the tiger how hear wrenching is that tony is living in
a cage at a truck stop is this going to end for tony do you think well i think
it will and and i’ll tell you that you know you describe it is heart wrenching
and and it is but it’s also inspiring because that was one situation where i personally i have to admit on
i’m guilty of this i’d look at that situation for many years and i could not
find a way out couldn’t find a solution i couldn’t figure out how we can get
this tiger out of this parish in louisiana where obviously the people who
were intrenched there in the decision making had no interest in doing so and
and our friends at the animal legal defense fund had a great campaign and a
successful campaign and now the question is come the end of the year if his permit
is in fact not able to be um… uh… renewed what’s gonna happen to tony and and
quite frankly we’ve offered if his health is strong enough to take him to our
century in india now i know that’s a big if but god knows that would be an
amazing end for that tragic story but even if we got him to one of the sanctuaries
like big cat rescue in the u_s_ it would still be just so wonderful thats just
where i was going i was gonna ask is there any possibility you could take
tony if things work out to india or certainly big cat rescue would be
another great organization yeah we have to make that judgment call you know is
he healthy enough to make that trip and if he is absolutey and and he could actually be back where
tigers belong uh… the international fund for animal
welfare known as the ifaw is currently one of the largest animal
welfare and conservation charities in the world their mission is to improve the welfare
of wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial
exploitation of the animals protecting wildlife habitats and assisting
animals in distress grace ge gabriel is the regional
director of international fund for animal welfare asia she joined the international fund for
animal welfare in nineteen ninety-seven as the china country director in this capacity she established the ifaw china office
she initiated and managed an array of conservation animal welfare campaigns and programs headed by grace ifaw china works
with the chinese government to influence its current conservation policies increase coordination with the
international community and enhance enforcement of both domestic
and international wildlife protection legislation well while tiger only exist in asian it’s a asian species and
scientists believe that tiger as as species originated from china really yes so uh… a century ago there where probably a hundred thousand tigers
across asian continent on far wide as even to iran
to the caspian sea uh… and but in the past century three subspecies of tigers have become extinct including caspian tiger bali and javan uh… tiger subspecies in china there is one sub species of tiger called
south china tiger subspecies but this species hasn’t been
seen in the wild for over thirty years so scientists believe that this
species has already become extinct except some individuals that are
remaining in zoos but china you know up until nineteen eighties china still had a policy of killing
tigers as pests and not until nineteen eighty-nine when
china issued uh… wildlife protection act when tiger killing is was banned and today china had fewere then thirty tigers in the wild no wow and
across tiger continent there are there could be as few as thirty two hundred tigers across that continent in thirteen tiger range states but china is still very important for tight wild tiger conservation because china in china’s border with
russia there is a subspecies that is
amur tiger most of it lived in russia in the
russia and the fare east and it was in the past fifty years that species had had increased to about forty four hundred fifty individuals but today that species is also threatened
because of the demand for tiger parts in china and in souther china in china’s border with myanmar
and vietnam and that region there’s also the indochinese
subspecies of tiger that that occasionally wander into china and that species is also very uh… very much pressured by the trade by poaching are there now laws in china hurts uto
prohibit or attempt to at least regulate the the poachings
so are their anti- poaching laws and other laws to restrict trade of
illegal parts of tigers china’s protection of wildlife
law prohibits poaching of uh… tigers and
many endangered species in the wild however china’s policy uh… is very much promoting trade so under the policy there are a few uh… there are a lot of farming operations that are allowed um… in in china including tiger farming some of the largest tiger farms exist in china in total there are um… over six thousand tigers um… in the various farms versus fewer than thirty tigers in the
wild what are the tigers being farmed or bred for specifically what’s
going to happen to those tigers supposedly when when china allowed these
tiger farms to be set up they were set up um with um basically with the cover to say with the excuse to say these
tigers are bred for releasing them into the wild but what actually happened that these
tigers are speed bred they are bred so that the breeding strategy
for these tigers on the farms is very different from breeding strategy for wild tightness in the wild in order to preserve
diversity the genetic diversity you wouldn’t breed so frequently but on the farms in order to produce the
maximum number of tigers they breed very quickly the tigers after a female breeds within three months that cub is taken away from the
mother so the female tiger will get into
breeding again so what happens is that the diversity is is very it got very uh… messy and compromised and the tigers are not
only breeding withing you know just with other tigers these farms also breed tigers with
lions so what happens this you know these
monster ligers that has no use ever in conservation and tigers cannot the tigers on the farm bred
on the farms can never never be release into the wild and i would surmise that the
conditions they’re kept in on the farm are not ideal conditions for a tiger no they’re not
and also day they are uh… allot of the tigers are starved and in order for them to
engage in shows by shows that i mean they would sell tourists prey tiger prey so tourists can take a bye a chicken buy a
cow release into the enclosure for the tiger to pounce pounce onto the prey and in the wild a tiger would hunt individually by itself but in
these farms uh… you can see uh… a group of tigers twenty thirty tiger
pouncing on one cow or chasing one chicken so these are many of the farms also are uh…
wildlife parks safari parks so what what they do it is uh… they chain tigers
to to uh… to the floor and pose pictures for pictures with tourists so these tigers live a very miserable life on the farm and then when they die or when
they are killed these farms are also selling the tiger parts online and in the name of traditional medicine one of the one of the laws that china had passed it wasn’t a law law but it was a
state council china’s highest level of government body in nineteen ninety three responding to international uh… uh…
pressure to protect tigers and tigers are already
listed in society the society of international trade in endangered species on appendix one so international
trade is banned so in nineteen ninety-three china’s
state council issued a notice banning tiger bone and rhino horn use in traditional chinese medicine and after that ban the government
actually started a lot of uh… education campaigns within the tcm medicine community to urge them not to use tiger bone and rhino horn
in medicine so what happened was the official tcm community have moved away from using tiger bone in medicine but these tiger farms they are they’re basically they used tiger bone to produce a type of wine and they call it for medicinal use and then they are they are using
peoples you know a lot of older people’s
in their mind yeah tiger bone has you know medicinal powers and so they’re on preying on those type of people and who treasure tiger bone in medicine and who still
want to use it as we sit here at the international headquarters it’s easy to
cast a stone on what’s going on in china and other countries but here in the united
states there are also significant tiger problems and of course other endangered
species significant problems as well do you have any commentary on the link
between what’s going on in china with respect to the tigers in some of
the abuse of tigers here in the united states indeed you know tiger crisis it it
it didn’t get to this point if everybody was aware that you know tigers need to be protected and
tigers wild tigers belong in asia in the wild in their natural forest in fact in the u_s_ um… their the
number of tigers that are kept in captivity the number is even higher than those that are on china farms and tiger is not even an indigenous
species on this continent so in for the people in the for the u_s_ government on and for the
people in in in u_s_ they need to be aware of if they’ really care about tigers than we need to have stronger laws we
need to have stronger position to keep tigers in the wild to
regulate make sure that the tigers in captivity in this country do not go into uh… illegal trade which stimulates a market demand which fuels poaching tigers in the wild nathan herschler is an attorney and
international operations manager with ifaw the international fund for animal
welfare prior to joining ifaw in two thousand
and eight he graduated from american university
washington college of law where he focused on environmental and
animal law nathan has co-chaired his student animal
legal defense fund law school chapter he’s lectured on animal law issues and
volunteered with a number of animal advocacy group can you tell me how pervasive the captive
tiger problem is here in the u_s_ the problem is pretty widespread uh… uh… there’s been a number of
advancements over the past fifteen to twenty years or
so most recently with the passage of the captive wildlife safety act in two
thousand three after that came into effect there was a
ban on interstate transport on a number of big cat species defined is
prohibited wildlife species under that act um… it protects species that uh…
including lions and cougars which were necessarily already protected under
federal law uh… but that became so because of that
act and remain only protected under federal because of that act uh… that being said there are still a substantial number of big cats in captivity in the united
states both in private hands kept as pets and
also in sort of corporate type of farms that uh… are using these animals for uh… for
commercial activities like bringing them to malls where they ask people to take photos take
photos with these big cats as part of you know uh… activities that will bring folks into malls where does one go about purchasing a tiger uh… it’s not as simple as going to
a local pet store or that but uh… there are a number of states where
private ownership of big cats is just not prohibited in the united states its legal or its legal with a permit uh… the number of states have declined where
that’s allowed in the last number of years but uh… you can still go to some of these
states where uh… where the private ownership is
allowed uh… or you can find them on the internet the
simple google search away you can purchase your own big cat why would states allow this there’s a substantial amount of money in it
in some instances states sometimes allow because they
think of it is a private ownership issue they don’t like to see government
getting involved in the private ownership of property uh… they think that it’s somebody’s right to
own wildlife uh… it’s hard to speculate on a state to state
basis there a number of different reasons why they would do it uh… but i think that uh… a lot of
times it’s really just inertia and i think that they don’t see it as a
substantial problems in their states so there’s not a lot of effort being put into changing the
way that they actually do it the ownership of big cats other the
obvious danger of a tiger escaping and harming someone are their
other things to worry about yeah so their there’s a number of
issues and there’s welfare issues a member of these cats are being kept in horribly tight confinement uh… you know spaces small cages that are the
equivalent of of dog cages the you see that you will
only will transfer your dog for a couple of hours s just keep them
safe but these tigers are living their entire lives in in equally small cramped behavior so
there’s massive animal welfare problems with that there’s also um… issues of public safety uh… you know when you’re dealing with these
private owners of big cats there’s always the possible of mailings theres the
possibility of escapes uh… and then there’s also
international conservation issues we suspect although we don’t have any proof
at this stage that a number of these animals are actually being put into uh… international and domestic
wildlife trade uh… for use in either traditional asian markets for as
medicines where the tiger in particular tiger bone
wine is thought to increase both virality and strengthen its drinkers and then there’s an increasing demand
for that thats putting extreme pressures on wild populations of tigers but we also
suspect may be putting pressure on domestic formed populations uh… and the same holds true for other
species of big cats lions for example that are sometimes used as replacement
products for those tigers when they become more scarce uh… there are also additional threats
on the ground to a number of the species poaching in particular uh… or
trophy hunting for species like lions where the uh… import of those trophies is not
actually prohibited at this time in the united states what are some challenges
that we face probably the number one
challenge is the fact that people don’t think of this is a major problem uh…
the people who are out there trying to interact with these animals
the cubs that you’re allowed to play with at shopping malls for
example they like animals that love animals they
want to be near these animals and that’s really the cause for them to be willing to
pay these ten twenty dollars for a photo opportunity with them to some extent of the biggest challenge
is as overcoming the public awareness and what the actual side effects of
having these cubs in malls is actually going to be we also have challenges in congress of
course as everybody knows right now there’s huge impasses over the budget over
the role of federal government implementing wildlife reforms and uh… and overcoming that just on a uh… federal law basis is a substantial
challenge for anybody trying to do the type of work that our organization does
ian robinson is a veterinarian and ifaw’s
emergency relief program director he began his career in general
veterinary practice in the u_k_ but for the past fifteen years he has worked
full time in animal welfare ian work first with the royal society for the
prevention of cruelty to animals where he helped to open the largest wildlife
rehabilitation hospital in europe treating over six thousand wildlife
casualties per year from over two hundred different species from bats to
badgers to sparrows to sea birds to seals and all kinds of animals ian joined ifaw in two thousand and
three and he has helped the animals around
the world including responding to emergencies in many foreign countries as
well as in the united states it was interesting actually because my
first job really when i first started with ifaw was a tiger rescue and uh… when i was going to to start my job i was called by my new boss
saying can you start in time for the big cat rescue and i said oh yeah that’ll bbe fine I had no
idea whether this was a like just a big cat or like a tabby or
a main coon cat it turned out to be twenty-four tigers in a backyard in new jersey which we took out of quite appalling conditions and moved to a sanctuary in texas and i
think one of the stunning statistics is that there are more tigers in captivity in the u_s_
then there now are in the wild uh… uh… and the wild tigers are extremely
endangered yet they are relatively easy to breed in
captivity and there are large numbers of them unregulated in the u_s_
and i think this is the the basis of the problem you can buy a tiger cub for about the same price is a good
pedigree labrador and people will do this and in many
states there are really no regulations to control how the trade in dangerous wild animals of all sorts uh… is is undertaken and so people will buy a cub which sounds like a good idea
at the time than the cub grows it becomes dangerous it becomes often unwanted or they can’t
afford to keep it anymore and then it becomes a problem and that’s often where we get involved
trying to find sanctuary for these animals which people can no longer cope with now i am a law school professor and one
of the things that i have great interest in is animal welfare so i’m aware more than the
general public about the problems with respect to animals in this country approximately three months ago i
found out that people had in their back yards in texas and in other
parts of the country tigers i was shocked shocked is an understatement
really i wonder what people think when when they decide that they’re going to
keep a tiger in their backyard to me common sense tells should tell you that
you can not keep a tiger like you would keep a cat or a dog absolutely and wild
live belongs in the wild whatever it is but people do get attracted by the beauty and the grandeur
of these animals and there is that inquisitive streak in people
which which wants to own they want to own the want to have one of these animals for themselves and they
don’t really consider the implications of that keeping wildlife like tigers in captivity is an extremely complex expensive and specialized business and should be
left to those organizations like zoos that have
the wherewithal to try and do it properly uh… and
often the results of trying to do it and not being able to do it properly is these
animals end up needing a home and that’s where the sanctuary community of the u_s_ comes in to try and rescue
these animals and give them a good environment for the remainder of their lives my understanding is many of the sanctuaries
we have now are full and because we have such a problem in
the united states so i would imagine that it’s quite hard when you get a call
that there are a number of tigers in a backyard somewhere that are being
captain horrible conditions you need to find a way to go in and rescue them but then you also have to
relocate them somewhere walk me through what it’s like to to
relocate a tiger well it is a tremendous problem
because particularly in this at this time of economic
recession it’s becoming more difficult for the sanctuaries who are providing for these
animals to keep going in fact there has been a
recent case of a sanctuary going bankrupt and then the hundred-plus tigers and lions and other big cats that they had
in sanctuary had to be farmed out through out the the whole of the u_s_ to other
sanctuaries that could provide them with a decent home that was an extremely difficult and
is still an ongoing process that we’re going through we haven’t
quite rehoused all of the tigers
that they have uh… a sanctuary which takes on the job of caring for one of these animals and
giving them a good home for the rest of their lives is taking on
a tremendous burden both financially and in terms of
the care that that’s required and this is the
real problem and the problem is there are more and more tigers being produced now one of the
reasons for this is that people want to pet tigers and so there is a market for people to pet tigers and it is
still legal in this country to be able to handle and have the public
interacting with tigers within a certain age group
which is sort of eight to twelve weeks now that’s
a very very short time scale so in order to have these animals to
make a profit out allowing the public to handle them people will breed tigers and then each of those tigers has to be
has to go somewhere so they’re sold as pets or whatever those tigers get into trouble and then go to
sanctuaries but the whole time there’s this big machine which is creating more and more
animals which need help and so there’s a it’s a
never-ending problem the only way the only way that this is ever going to
come under control and the only way it really is going to be stopped is national legislation oh certainly
i mean i sit here and i listen to you now and it seems to me that it’s common
sense that we ought to not allow people to interact with tiger tiger cubs
between the ages of eight weeks and twelve weeks because that’s a month and so you must have people that are continually breeding tremendous amounts of tiger cubs so
that they always have them available because of course they can make money from doing
this and think of the life of the tiger afterwards how sad it is that of course
now you’re gonna ultimately probably get called in to try to rescue what is an
unsuitable pet from the backyard of somebody and now you have to find a home and the sad thing is the tiger ends up
living in captivity for its life and that is not an ideal solution to the
problem absolutely and although each state is different and some states
have all ready outlawed the keeping of dangerous wild
animals such as tigers by the general public it does go state
by state and in many states it is still legal and in many states you will
find people who who still acquire these animals as pets and then
often keep them in unsuitable conditions where they suffer there is also the
significant danger not only to the owner but also to the public if these animals
escape or if people get in with an animal because they’re not expecting there to
be a tiger on the premises these these kind of things so there is uh…
considerable uh… public safety issue involved with this as well the massachusetts
school of law has a very dedicated animal law program here are two students well this summer we’ve
been working on an internship uh… together with another msl
alum, rose church and its in regards to captive tigers and we’re here to help create a multiorganizatinal
effort to help combat captive tigers and to ensure that they’re not being brought around to all the different malls
captive tigers are basically tiger cubs are basically taken around to different malls when they are between eight and
twelve weeks old they are petted and uh… just some horrible abuses are happening to these poor animals and what do you think personally you guys can do to help this
problem personally i would like to make it more aware to the public about the captive
tigers in the united states uh… especially in new england uh… i was
shocked by uh… the numbers anywhere between five thousand and twelve
thousand captive tigers and i would like to make that more aware to the public i think that i agree with kaitlyn
education is really key at this point in time because in new england we have no idea that
this is going on and as kaitlyn indicated there are so many
tigers that are being held in inhumane conditions that education’s really a key factor now i know you both took animal law have you worked on animal issues before i have worked uh… at the local level i have worked
with a… local shelter i have helped foster dogs
i’ve also created a program for people with
disabilities where they collect donations and then take it into a shelter I um in high school was on a wild animal rescue team and we would take care of like
squirrels and take care of eagles and hawks and different things like that
and then in college i was in animal club and did things with the animal club and now at law
school i took the animal law class and hopefully
helping the tiger situation It seems that it always takes a tragedy before
people will see a problem and act on wednesday october nineteen twenty
eleven fifty-six exotic animals including
lian’s tigers bears giraffes wolves were freed from their captivity at a
rural residence outside of zanesville ohio police report that the animals owner
terry thompson let the animals out of their cages before he killed himself when the carnage was over forty-nine animals were slaughtered
including eighteen bengal tigers seventeen lions six black bears a pair of
grizzlies three mountain lions two wolves and a baboon only six animals one grizzly bear three leopards and two monkeys were captured
alive and taken to the columbus zoo and aquarium this tragedy should not have happened it is time to take action write or call your congressman and tell
them we need a federal ban on keeping wild animals as pets its common sense tell you a congressman to press the
u_s_d_a_ to close the eight twelve-week loophole volunteer contribute to one of the many animal
welfare organizations that you saw on the show finally please please do not pay to play
with a tiger cub and do not have your picture taken
with a tiger cub so until next time be the voice for for those who cannot speak become educated on the things that you
care about like this topic and above all you be well i think we have a really good case for
getting them to close the window and the reason is they say up until
eight weeks the cat doesn’t have sufficient
immunology and so what they didn’t tell you they got it
partially right they got it partially right in that the cat does not have a
proper immune system but the fact is with domestic cats as
probably all of your people know you give kitten shots at 8 weeks 10 weeks
and twelve weeks before they’re actually protected it’s the same way with tiger
cubs so they’re not even protected until twelve weeks u_s_d_a_ has already said at twelve weeks
they’re too dangerous for handling so what we hope to presented to them is to say you guys had
it right aren’t protected but they’re not
protected until the twelfth week and we could just close that four week window it
seems like it would be such an easy thing it is such a problem at the state level and because the states have
been delegated the the responsibility for controlling the trade an exotic animals
in the keeping of exotic animals as pets one thing we had great success in doing
uh… about eight years ago was passing the captive wildlife safety act which
prohibits the interstate movement in big cats like tigers lions leopards cougars
or even hybrids if they’re gonna be kept as pets and so full enforcement of
that law which is not currently happening would
be a huge boon to the stopping of interstate movement of these animals and really localizing the problems so that states and communities can
actually address the problems themselves i think the other thing we need to do
is focus on those states that’s still allow the trade go to those state
legislatures show the incidents that have happened in the states that have
been uh… problematic where children have been bitten or otherwise hurt show the number of people that we think are
keeping tigers in those communities and why it’s a risk and urge them literally
one by one to change the state law so that there won’t be any communities
left in the country where these animals could be procured i think there’s a
number of things that we can do it and there’s a multitude of options on the
table um but it’s they’re all difficult and
that’s all it’s a difficult slog all the time trying to pass federal
legislation trying to pass regulatory change at the state and the federal
level uh… i think that obviously the holy grail in all of this would be a ban on the private
ownership of big cats with certain exceptions for obviously reputable
sanctuaries potentially for circuses for zoo we haven’t we don’t have an
organizational position on that at this point uh… but there are clearly a lot of
options out there um… that can help address this issue
and its an issue that needs to be addressed without strong both federal and state support for proper and sensible legislation to
control the ownership of dangerous wild animals
including big cats and specifically tigers in the u_s_ this this will continue to be a constant
problems so for the people in the for the u_s_ government and for the people in the u_s_ they need to be aware of if they really care about tigers then
we need to have stronger laws we need to have stronger position to keep tigers in
the wild to regulate make sure that the tigers in captivity in this country do
not go into illegal trade and which simulate a market demand which guels
poaching of tigers in the wild

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