- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2003

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The House yesterday unanimously approved a measure designed to discourage individuals from acquiring lions, tigers and other “big cats” as pets.

By a vote of 419-0, the House passed the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which bars interstate and foreign commerce of dangerous exotic animals, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars and cougars, for the pet trade.

Nineteen states already have prohibitions against keeping big cats as pets, but the House bill, if signed into law, would make violation of the federal law a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and fines as high as $250,000 dollars for individuals and $500,000 for organizations.

The bill exempts wildlife sanctuaries and individuals licensed by the Agriculture Department to keep and exhibit such animals.

The Senate passed a slightly modified version of the legislation Oct. 31. After differences between the House and Senate bills are reconciled, the legislation will go to President Bush to sign.

The Humane Society of the United States, the largest national organization devoted to animal welfare, estimated that as many as 15,000 exotic big cats are kept as pets in the U.S. and applauded the House vote.

“In just five years, an estimated one hundred adults and children have been injured or killed by large cats,” said Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president for the group, in a statement.

“These are dangerous and unpredictable wild animals and there is simply no justifiable reason for them to be kept as pets,” Mr. Pacelle said.

Animal activists said that while cuddly as cubs, big cats become dangerous as they mature, and often end up abandoned, euthanized or harvested for their pelts and meat.


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