Today, October 18, 2016 marks the fifth anniversary of a nightmare: a private owner of exotic animals in Zanesville, Ohio named Terry Thompson opened the cages of his 56 tigers, lions, cougars, bears and wolves and let them loose.
When sheriff deputies arrived at Thompson’s facility, they saw lions and tigers drifting toward the highway and town. Recognizing that the animals were a serious public safety risk as dusk approached, deputies had no choice but to shoot most of the animals before they scattered into the night and threatened lives.
When the dust had settled, 18 tigers, 17 lions, 3 cougars and many other animals were killed. Also dead was Terry Thompson, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
But the biggest tragedy that day? That the incident happened at all.
Big cats like tigers and lions should not be owned by private citizens. Zanesville could happen anywhere in the United States. It’s estimated that between 10,000 to 20,000 big cats are owned as pets or maintained in ill-equipped roadside zoos and traveling exhibits.
These predators pose a serious risk to public safety. Cats possessed by private owners in the U.S. are frequently housed in dilapidated cages that are unlikely to hold and contain them during natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes.
The solution is Federal legislation – the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H3546 / S 2541) – which Big Cat Rescue and a coalition of animal welfare groups has been working to pass for several years. This bill is a common sense and urgently needed bipartisan solution to the problem of dangerous big cats kept in unsafe circumstances. The bill amends the Captive Wildlife Safety Act to prohibit breeding and phase out the private possession of lions, tigers and other big cats.
Please take action and ask your Senators and House Rep to co-sponsor and support the Big Cat Public Safety Act at BigCatAct.com.
Let’s not let the 56 wild animals that died 5 years ago be forgotten or have died in vain.