Animal Wellness Action Says Tiger in West Houston Provides More Evidence That Congress Must Adopt the Big Cat Public Safety Act With Urgency
Houston, Texas – In the latest incident involving an escaped captive big cat, amateur video was released late last night of a tiger roaming a suburban West Houston community, with one individual brandishing a weapon in an apparent attempt to prevent a violent charge or lunge by the animal. A man who claimed to be the owner then was able to coax the animal into his home before a shooting occurred.
Texas has no statewide law forbidding private ownership of tigers and other big cats, although many local jurisdictions do have policies forbidding ownership. Yet law enforcement are almost never trained to handle such situations.
“Private citizens and emergency responders should not have to come face to face with a lion or a tiger in a crisis,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action. “These animals belong in the wild or in reputable sanctuaries or zoos and nowhere else. This epidemic of private ownership of these exotic animals must be put to a swift end before more animals die and more people are injured or killed.”
Emergency responders are not equipped to safely handle circumstances where there is an animal escape, a domestic violence dispute, a natural disaster, or some other crisis.
Private citizens acquire tigers or other big cats as cubs, but soon realize they are unable to handle a 300-pound carnivore. When private citizens and roadside zoos dump tigers and lions into the exotic animal trade, they become an unfunded liability for animal welfare sanctuaries and zoos the next 20 years. Reputable zoos and animal welfare groups take in these big cats to help them, but it comes at a great and unanticipated expense. It may cost as much as a million dollars to house, feed, and care for a tiger for 20 years.
“Texas has had a cascade of dangerous incidents, including recently in San Antonio,” added Mr. Pacelle, who worked to pass the Captive Wildlife Safety Act in Congress in 2003. That legislation has not been properly implemented and enforced and had a technical problem that requires new legislation to amend it. The Big Cat Public Safety Act, H.R. 263 and S. 1210, would correct that problem, ban any interstate transport of big cats for the pet trade, and outlaw commercial cub petting operations, like the own featured in the Netflix sensation “Tiger King.”
The tigers and lions bred for the pet trade or as roadside attractions do not have good lives. These animals, native to Africa and Asia, typically endure substandard conditions and life almost never turns out well for them.
Texas passed a law to address captive big cats, but the law requires counties to take additional legislative action to address the problem. U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX-07), whose district lies within the Houston area as well as Reps. Marc Veasey (D-TX-33), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX-29), Colin Allred (D-TX-32), Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16), and Lance Gooden (R-TX-05) are current cosponsors of the Big Cat Public Safety Act but Republican U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have yet to cosponsor the Senate companion bill despite the endorsement from the National Sherriff’s Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and numerous other law enforcement officials across the state.