What it Means for Big Cat Ownership
It’s impossible to miss the latest news coming out of Houston, Texas. A tiger was filmed in a neighborhood last Sunday. We would like to address some of the most commonly asked questions we received after posting the story to our Facebook page, as well as summarize why this points to a greater need for federal legislation regarding big cat ownership.
Why would the off-duty officer pull his gun on the tiger?
Officers typically aren’t trained to handle situations involving these apex predators here in the U.S., where such animals are not native.
Law enforcement officials are tasked to protect the public when an animal is on the loose. This means doing whatever possible to keep people safe.
What about tranquilizing the animal?
Sedating an animal is actually a tricky process. When sedating for medical procedures at TCWR, we have to match the dosage to the animal’s weight and wait for ideal temperatures to actually perform the sedation. If an officer decides to tranq the animal, it could still prove fatal to the tiger or lion because there is no way to get a proper weight or control the temperature in such random situations. If too much sedation is used, the animal will overdose. If it’s too cold out, the animal’s organs will shut down.
Another barrier to tranquilizing in these situations involves the amount of adrenaline the animal is producing. If the animal is stressed, it will metabolize the sedation at a rapid rate. Its stress might come from the unfamiliar situation the animal finds itself in (being outdoors for the first time, hearing traffic, the commotion it senses). This rapid metabolization will also occur if the animal has attacked any “prey.” Once again, this could result in the animal’s demise from a tranq overdose.
This leads us into a discussion of the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263). Why do we need to regulate the private ownership of these animals?
Danger to the Public
“Ramos had no idea a man charged with murder was living next door to him in this family-friendly community — and with a tiger, no less.”
This quote, in which Joe Ramos expressed his shock, can be found in one of the earlier news pieces about the tiger roaming the Houston, TX, neighborhood. (It should be noted that Ramos’s next-door neighbor in question, Victor Hugo Cuevas, is allegedly not the owner of the tiger.)
You’ve likely observed us getting stalked and pounced at through the fence when turning our backs to a big cat. It’s a natural instinct. The way they hunt and even “play” is dangerous. Imagine living in a family-friendly community, letting your children out to play then having them attacked by an apex predator. Imagine taking a stroll to your mailbox and getting mauled by a tiger. It sounds bizarre and like the plot of a bad movie, but the truly bizarre thing is how easily it could happen.
Danger to Law Enforcement/ First Responders
With animal attacks, law enforcement and EMTs need to access the injured/dead person. The fact that someone has to respond to this incident is now putting more people at risk. The situation is even more complicated if the attack happens inside a home. In this case, it can be hard for first responders to visualize what is happening before they enter and even harder to tranquilize the animal. How will they get to the victim? How will they do it safely?
Danger to the Animal
Tigers are predators. It’s unfair to force them to be anything but that. By privately owning these animals, people are putting them in a situation where following their natural instincts can be a death sentence. If you haven’t yet, please read the section titled “Why would the off-duty officer pull his gun on the tiger?” for an explanation of why sedation doesn’t always work.
How will sanctuaries handle the influx of animals if the Big Cat Public Safety Act Passes?
The Big Cat Public Safety Act is not removing animals from anyone’s care. People who currently own big cats will be grandfathered in. The current legislation would only ban cub-petting. At no point has the law mandated the removal of animals from their current owners, as long as they meet the minimum requirements for their animal’s care and housing.
How will law enforcement handle owners who turn their animals loose if the bill passes?
The answer to this question applies to the answer above. While there have been incidents of people turning wild animals loose out of anger, anyone who does this would do so regardless of the bill passing due to their own irresponsibility and selfishness.
How can you help?