Wednesday, January 01, 1997

1997 Big Cat Attacks

The Houston Chronicle
May 4, 1997, Sunday
State should control ownership of lions, tigers and cougars

Lions, tigers, cougars, bears, bobcats and other dangerous wild animals are fascinating to look at, but nature did not intend them to be kept as pets in peoples' back yards or
exhibited as curiosities along some highway, often under inhumane conditions.

Public safety should be the state's first concern when it comes to these wild creatures. They cannot be domesticated, and they were not meant to be. Their natural instincts for
survival in the wild from time to time lead them to seriously injure children and adults, including their owners. It is at that point that the poor animals are exterminated, even though they were behaving only as nature meant them to. Unfortunately, there is too little regulation of the keeping of dangerous wild animals in Texas, and the state's existing
law requiring owners of such animals to secure a Texas Parks and Wildlife permit expires Sept. 1

Companion bills by state Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, and state Sen. Mike Moncrief, D-Fort Worth, would ban the private ownership of some 20 dangerous wild animals as pets in the interest of public safety.

Zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, research facilities and other qualified organizations that are knowledgeable about these animals and equipped to house and care for them in safe and
humane conditions would be exempted.

The Senate bill is to be heard Monday, and it has drawn opposition from various groups who believe it is an intrusion on their freedoms. The proposed bill does not prohibit the
private ownership of exotic hoofed animals, which can be raised for hunting.

But the wild animals covered by the bill can be dangerous, and their ownership should be controlled. In recent weeks, a pet bobcat injured a small child and a man's pet tigers attacked his grandson.

Basic public safety calls for protection from attacks by dangerous wild animals. The Goodman and Moncrief bills will provide that as long as they are not gutted by exemptions given one group or another.

If legislators pass these bills, they will prevent children from being mauled and improve the lives of these dangerous animals that are best left in the wild rather than caged in
someone's back yard.