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What Happens to Publicly Displayed Baby Wild Animals After We Pet Them?

What Happens to Publicly Displayed Baby Wild Animals After We Pet Them?

Animal advocacy organizations have stepped up to ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to change the rules when it comes to public handling of wildlife.

Baby animals including lions, bears, tigers and primates are often used as a lure by exhibitors who want to profit off of our desire to play with, feed and pose with them. There’s no denying that they’re adorable and hard to resist, but our interaction with these infants continues to cause more problems than it’s worth.

In order to meet the public’s demand, animals continue to be bred to create an endless supply of babies to draw in crowds. Sadly, these infants are taken from their mothers shortly after birth, despite the known adverse effects of being deprived of maternal care on their physical and mental well being, and then subjected to the trauma of transport and public handling. Worse is that some exhibitors continue to try to convince the public that what they’re doing is somehow contributing to conservation efforts, when all they’re doing is creating a surplus of animals no one wants to care for.

Unfortunately, when they outgrow their cuteness, lose their charm and become too big or dangerous to handle, they’re no longer valuable to those who exploit them. Once grown, they often wind up in roadside zoos, sold into the pet trade or slaughtered for their meat. Others who are more fortunate may be taken in by sanctuaries, but they end up taking up space and adding to the financial burdens of these organizations.

As of 2012, there were at least 70 exhibitors in 25 states who were currently or recently allowing the public to handle big cats, bears and/or primates, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Now eight organizations — including the HSUS, World Wildlife Fund, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Born Free USA, the Fund for Animals, Big Cat Rescue and the Detroit Zoological Society –are petitioning the USDA to amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and change the rules to prohibit the public from coming into direct contact with big cats, bears and non-human primates, regardless of their age. They’re also requesting that young aren’t separated from their mothers or handled before they’re weaned at a species-appropriate age, unless it’s medically necessary.

The organizations are arguing that the current regulations dealing with public handling, “place these animals at risk of harm, threaten public safety, undermine conservation efforts, and encourage irresponsible breeding.”  Additionally, they note that the current rules are hard to enforce and inconsistently applied.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is requesting public comments until October 4, 2013 to help determine what, if any, action should be taken. APHIS would also like to hear whether there are any circumstances where public contact can happen without risks to animals or people, whether exhibitors should be required to keep additional records and what kind of information should be kept and whether exhibitors and dealers should be required to identify animals with tattoos, microchips or other means.

Please submit a comment asking the USDA to make a final rule that bans all public contact with big cats and other wild animals.


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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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4:22PM PDT on Sep 29, 2013

I love my big cats and I do get upset, thinking about these people exploiting this majestic animals for profit. It's so many levels of wrong, so I hope these organisations are victorious in their lobbying!

3:07AM PDT on Sep 15, 2013

thanks for sharing :)

10:24PM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

Karen L, I too donate to Tiger Creek and got the same email. I contacted IFAW and asked them about this issue, they assured me that all accredited sanctuaries would be grandfathered in so they could continue with their normal practices, but really, who knows. I am worried about this and just want the best for all animals and those that truly care for them (not exploit them).

3:32PM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

Time to end this for good and forever. Wild animals belong free in their own habitats to live out their lives in peace. What right do we have to exhibit them like this for no purpose but money, as usual?

1:39PM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

The PROBLEM with this Amendment is: It could also shut down sanctuaries that take in unwanted and abused wild animals, not allowing them to handle young animals. This would
no doubt cause the death of many! I'm taking note of the charities that support this, and
not donating to them anymore...quoting email from Tiger Creek "So if we do not rise to this conservation challenge and defeat the perceived purpose, if this proposal were to become USDA regulation, it is just a matter of time before licensees could be prohibited from hand rearing all species. So while today it is just the big cats, tomorrow it could be all cats. The petitioner’s goal is to eliminate sanctuaries, and all of our animals". The Amendment may sound good, but look deeper. Thanks

8:18AM PDT on Sep 9, 2013

In this world today all of God's creatures should be free to live their lives as is meant to be not imprisoned in any kind of environment or institution, including zoos! Man has to put a stop to the evil exploitation of all of our beautiful wildlife and allow them to live as they were born to be - free! Mankind has the choice to be free or not, but our animals do not have that privilege, neither do they have a voice to be heard.

5:27PM PDT on Sep 8, 2013


12:28PM PDT on Sep 8, 2013

Thanks for the opportunity to submit a comment to the regulation process.

10:27AM PDT on Sep 8, 2013

Animals are belong in the jungles. People need to protect them while they are in their own teritories. Protect them from the poachers and improve the wild life conservations & not to bring them from the wild to the towns and display them & abuse them. People are so much greedy for the dollar only & they do not see the animals sufferings & their pains.

6:44AM PDT on Sep 8, 2013

Thanks for informing everyone about this problem. Wild animals need to be just that...allowed to live in the wild...protected by us...not exploited by us.

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