Texas lawmakers are considering legislation that would crack down on those who choose to keep big cats and primates as pets.
A measure sponsored by state Rep. Ryan Guillen , D-Rio Grande City, and Sen. Eddie Lucio , D-Brownsville, would ban ownership of big cats and some primates, including chimpanzees and baboons, in counties where there are more than 75,000 residents, reports the San Antonio Express.
“Since 1990, more children have been killed or injured by captive big cats in Texas than any other state. Texas’ law needs to prevent people from keeping dangerous animals in their backyards and basements. These animals are not intended to be pets. They deserve the care and respect that can only be provided by professional facilities,” said Lucio.
The Humane Society of the Unites States (HSUS) believes Texas is one of the worst states when it comes to injuries and fatalities involving captive wild animals, and reports that “two children have been killed and more than four dozen people have lost limbs or suffered other traumatic injuries, many requiring hospital treatment, after being mauled, bitten or scratched by captive tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, chimpanzees and monkeys.” Since 1990 there have been 22 deaths and 500 injuries nationwide.
They also believe that there are currently more tigers living in captivity in Texas than in the wild, where their population is estimated to be around around 3,000. It’s also believed that there are between 10,000 to 20,000 privately owned big cats including tigers, lions and cougars currently living in captivity in the U.S., but the exact number is unknown due to insufficient record keeping.
Wild chimpanzees have been protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for decades and were added to the IUCN endangered species in 1996, but a loophole exists in the law that has left captive chimps with virtually no protection, and as cute as we like to believe they are, they can also be very dangerous. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently initiated a review of whether captive chimps should be uplisted from threatened to endangered status.
More than 30 states have laws in place banning the possession of big cats and primates, while others have partial exotic animal bans for some species or require licensing and registration, to own one, although most have nothing on the books that addresses breeding. Texas currently requires owners to register their animals.
Keeping these animals poses a threat not only to people in terms of health and safety, but to the animals themselves, especially when it comes to being kept in inadequate and inappropriate environments that harm them physicaly and psychologicaly, or situations where they’re being blatantly mistreated.
“These animals can cause death and inflict serious injury which is why I introduced this public safety measure,” said Guillen. “It is difficult for individuals to meet wild and dangerous animals’ specialized needs while in captivity and properly ensure the safety of their neighbors and their community.”
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