Saturday, February 02, 2002

1996-2002 Big Cat Attacks

Escaped jaguar kills child
From BBC News 6 th December 1998
A jaguar which escaped from a zoo in western France has killed a young boy.
The animal bit and mauled Gregoire Lucazeau on Saturday afternoon, and seriously injured the boy's father as he desperately tried to fight it off.
The jaguar was one of two 100kg females that tunnelled out of their cage at a zoo in Doue-la-Fontaine, near Poitiers, 250km (150 miles) from Paris.
The animals scratched away at earth under the perimeter fence of their enclosure and slipped through the gap.
They headed for a group of visitors and one of them turned on the boy.
The attacking jaguar was shot by police and the other was captured and put to sleep on Sunday morning because it showed signs of aggressive behaviour.
Both animals had been bred at the zoo, which has around 200,000 visitors a year.
The authorities are now investigating how the boy was attacked. The zoo has been closed until further notice.
“The child didn't pass through any security zone," state prosecutor Yves Gambert told France Info radio.
The boy was bitten repeatedly in the head and died of his wounds. His father, an officer from the nearby military training college at Angers, tackled the creature bare-handed. The man was hospitalised with head wounds, but is out of danger.
He was "very courageous, because he tried to free his son from the claws of the animal," nurse Noura Oumaziz told French television LCI.

© BBC, 6 th December 1998 Man eaten by pet lion
From Italian News reports, 24 th January 2000
Sergio Montella stands in a cage next to his lion in Lecce, southern Italy in this recent, but undated picture. Montella, a 56-year-old retired lawyer from Naples who collected wild animals in a makeshift home-zoo in Lecce, was found dead - eaten by a lion, Italian news reports said. (Photo Vittorio Arcieri)
ROME A man who kept wild animals in his home in southern Italy was found dead - eaten by a lion, Italian news reports said.
Police said the man, who lived in a town near the city of Lecce, kept a lion, tigers and a panther in the basement of his house, as well as many dogs and cats.
Neighbours hadn't seen the man in a week and called police, who found his remains in the lion's cage, his body mauled and his clothes torn, RAI state TV and other Italian news reports said.
Authorities said they were investigating if the 50-year-old man was alive when attacked by the lion or if he had died a natural death a few days earlier while in the cage and the animal, with no one to feed it, then ate the body.
RAI said the man was a lawyer who moved from his home town of Naples to the countryside in southeastern Italy five years ago after neighbours there complained that he kept wild animals.

The reports said the man apparently didn't have the permits necessary to keep exotic animals as house pets. Cougar mauls Cherry Hill woman
From a US mailing list, post by Lyn Culver, April 2002
A Cherry Hill woman, Christine Lee, 36, remains in Mena Medical Center in stable condition after being bitten on the upper and lower arm by a newly-purchased adult cougar on Monday night.
According to her husband, Robert, Lee entered the cage while the cougar was feeding and it attacked her. "She got in there with him and she got bit twice on the arm, "said Mr. Lee. "We purchased the cat Sunday from a man in Horatio, who had three or four big cats. This one was originally a wild one but was hurt and nursed back to health, then kept in captivity for about five years.
"My sister had one and I had been around them before," he continued. "My wife saw the ones in Horatio and wanted one so I bought it. It got away the first night we got it home (Sunday) but didn't go far and we tranquilized it and brought it back to the cage. The next night it got a hold of my wife when she went in the cage."
Arkansas Game and Fish Officer Phillip Abernathy said a 911 call came in about 6:25 Monday night. "The First Responders and the Ambulance crew were there when I arrived, and they were caring for the woman in the ambulance," said Abernathy. "We believe a combination of alcohol and inexperience played a significant role in this incident. I highly recommend that if you intend to keep an animal like this, you get some professional training before bringing it home. I believe this kind of incident is one of the reasons we have big feral cats in Arkansas. People buy these creatures and find out that they're not as compatible or as wonderful as they thought, and they end up releasing them into the wild rather than finding appropriate homes for them."
Lynn Culver, director of Legal Affairs for the national organization LIOC Endangered Species Conservation Federation and owner-operator of N.O.A.H Feline Conservation Center in Cherry Hill, contacted the Star, presenting her insights to the recent incident as well as the wild cougar problems that appear to be affecting the Ink community.
"Anytime someone who is involved with captive wild felines is injured, everyone in the exotic animal world is deeply affected," said Culver.
"The exotic feline community is working cooperatively to prevent accidents and raise the standard of care that these very special felines deserve.
"Bottle feeding an exotic kitten produces a loving bond with the human care giver who does this parenting, but this strong emotional attachment does not reliably transfer to another when the feline reaches adulthood," Culver explained. "It is for this reason, that great caution must be exercised when dealing with any tame/ wild cat, raised by another.
And handling and housing large adult felines is not something that should be attempted by persons who have neither the prior experience, nor the facilities or equipment to properly contain, transport or medicate these felines.
"My husband Bart and I have owned and operated N.O.A.H. Feline Conservation Center for the past 17 years," she continued. "In that time we have come to raise and house over a dozen different cougars.
Today we care for 7 adult cougars, as well as bobcats, Canadian lynx, African servals and caracals and South American Geoffroy's cats.
We are licensed by the Arkansas Game and Fish department as well as the United States Department of Agriculture. Many of our cats came to us as adults, and we have always treated them with the utmost care and respect, recognizing that while these animals may be tame and friendly, they are also very strong and emotional beings capable of inflicting serious human injury. This recent situation has reminded me of how important it is to always think 'safety first.'"
"The captive cougar population as a whole is aging. Breeding of large wild felines is much less common then it was 10 years ago.
This is partly due to increasing numbers of states which have tightened regulations concerning ownership of these animals.
Now many of the older cougars are finding themselves out of a home.
And as this recent situation here illustrates, a displaced cougar is a confused and potentially unpredictable animal.
They are not suitable pets for the average person.
"Recently another cougar has made the headlines of the Mena Star," she added. "This one is not a captive animal, but a free roaming native of the 'Natural State' of Arkansas.
I find it silly that the Arkansas Game and Fish office would offer the opinion that natural repopulation of a beleaguered species could not be happening here.
They theorize instead that these felines are somehow escaped pets.
As a person who has her finger on the pulse of the cat world for well over a decade, I know of no captive-born cougar that has ever escaped, that was not either shot almost immediately, or recaptured without incident.
And G & F statistics also support my observation.
"What I do suspect is happening is that the native cougar population is making a very slow but natural repopulation of a habitat which formerly supported this species," continued Culver. "Perhaps the recovery has been augmented by a few Texas cougars who have migrated up to the Ouachita Mountain ecosystem to mix with the native population.
The main prey species the cougar depends upon to survive are white-tailed deer, which have increased in numbers also.
"I would strongly suspect that if the predator which has killed calves, sheep and goats is a cougar, it is most likely one of three possibilities," she explained. "My first guess is that it is a dispersing juvenile between 12 and 18 months. While they have the natural instincts to avoid humans, younger cats often find themselves extremely hungry as they travel through various marginal territories in search of their own home range and are tempted to risk exposure in a farmer's pasture to gain an easy domestic animal meal. The second possibility is that this animal is a female who has just given birth and needs to restrict her home range to an area within range of her den so that she limits her time away from her kittens. The final possibility is that this animal is either infirm, injured or geriatric. And it will either recover or die.
It cannot continue to hover around humans and prey on their stock.
Eventually the odds will catch up to the feline and it will perish from such risky behavior."

April 2002 Circus Lion Eats Boy In Brazil
From the Daily Telegraph, 4 th May 2000
Recife, Brazil- FIVE lions ate a six-year-old boy in front of a circus audience after one of the big cats dragged him from his father's hand and into their cage.
The lion struck when the man took his two children to inspect the animal enclosures during an intermission at the Vostok Circus in Recife, Brazil, on Sunday night. The lion lurched toward the boy, pulled him through the bars, clamped its jaws on his head and shook him violently as the other lions attacked.
The boy's father told a television reporter: "He grabbed my son with his paws and pulled him into the cage, and when I looked up he was in the lion's mouth. My daughter saw her little brother dragged away."
Police wounded two people as they sprayed the top of the cage with machine-gun fire to try to scare the lions away from the boy. It took officers more than four hours to recover the child's torn body from the cage. Four of the five lions were shot dead. Inspectors said the circus had breached safety regulations by allowing the public to walk right up to the cages.
A circus employee, who did not want to reveal his identity, told a local television station that the lions had not been fed since Thursday.

Daily Telegraph, 4 th May 2000 Leopard Escapes from Bombay Zoo, Mauls Two
From Cat News number 27, Autumn 1997
A young leopard escaped from a zoo in Bombay on 29 August and mauled two men when it strayed into an apartment block. The leopard initially roamed peacefully around the residential quarters before suddenly springing on 63-year-old Gopral Gore, who escaped with minor injuries, according to the Indian Express. The animal the took a swipe at a 70-year old man's head. He was treated with at least eight stitches.
The leopard later found its way into an empty house where it smashed crockery, ate a cooked meal, and went to sleep in the kitchen sink. Forest officials caught the cat after tranquillising it with a blow dart.

Cat News number 27, Autumn 1997

Starving tigers kill keeper at mini-zoo
From Offbeat News, 21 st January 1999
Bankok (Reuters) - Four tame but hungry tigers attacked and killed their keeper in a private restaurant cum zoo in northern Thailand, police said on Thursday.
The tigers at Baan Sua (Tiger House) restaurant, about 500 miles north of Bangkok in Phrae province, had not been fed for days because the restaurant's business had slumped, a local police spokesman said.
The tigers killed the keeper, Ya Fu, on Wednesday as he was working with them in their cage. Other workers subdued the animals after the attack.
''The tigers were apparently starving due to the poor performance of the restaurant lately,'' the police spokesman said.
Baan Sua has 10 tigers, birds and several other animals in its mini-zoo, which it uses to attract tourists. But few customers have come to the restaurant in the past six months, police said.
The provincial authorities had ordered the restaurant's license revoked, they added.

Offbeat News, 21 st January 1999 Lion Bites off Woman's Arm at Busch Gardens

May 13, 2002 4:58 am US/Eastern

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- A male lion bit the arm of a 21-year-old zookeeper Sunday at Busch Gardens, severing it at the elbow, park officials said.

The woman was escorting her family on a behind-the-scenes tour of the theme park, officials said.

The 12-year-old, 350-pound lion named Max attacked the woman through a bar-style fence and was never out of his secure area, said Capt. Bill Wade of the Tampa Fire Rescue.

The woman, whose name wasn't released, was flown with the severed limb to Tampa General Hospital by helicopter.

She is listed in serious condition, a hospital spokesman said. It was unclear if an attempt would be made to reattach the arm.

Zoo officials said they had not decided what to do with the lion.

The Denver Post
May 25, 2000 ThursdayLENGTH: 458 words

Tiger that bit refuge volunteer won't be killed

By Trent Seibert, Denver Post Staff Writer,

The Siberian tiger named Boris who chewed the arm off a volunteer at the Prairie Wind Wild Animal Refuge will be spared the death sentence. Local, state and federal officials said Wednesday they would not euthanize him.

'You'd be hard-pressed to find a reason to,' said Michael Knight, spokesman for the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office. A 28-year-old Denver woman reached into Boris' cage Saturday to pet the tiger. The tiger responded by nibbling at her hand. She panicked and jerked her hand back, witnesses said. That's when Boris devoured her arm, leaving only a stump at her shoulder.

'That's nothing more than a tiger being a tiger,' Knight said. 'As far as destroying the animal, we're not considering that.'

Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, both of which regulate exotic wildlife refuges such as Prairie Wind, said it is not in their jurisdiction to decide to kill animals. They chiefly oversee animal welfare.

Indeed, any decision to kill the animal in this case would rest with Prairie Wind owner Michael Jurich and the victim, who could file suit asking for Boris to be euthanized.

Both Jurich and the victim have said they want the tiger to live since it was the volunteer's action that caused the tiger to chew off her arm.

'She made a mistake; she knows she made a mistake,' Jurich said in an interview this week.

Neither Jurich nor the volunteer, still hospitalized in fair condition at Swedish Medical Center, could be reached for comment.

When wild animals are ordered killed, it is usually when they are an immediate threat to people, such as the November 1998 case in Florida when a 3-year-old Bengal tiger lunged without warning to kill owner Doris Guay.

The tiger was killed by the Alachua County, Fla., sheriff's SWAT team after Guay's husband gave authorities permission to shoot the animal.

But authorities don't always need permission.

In February, 'Zip,' a 25-pound pet monkey, attacked its owner after being kept for two months in a parrot cage in the owner's Illinois home.

Despite protests from owner Cathy Huscher, Cook County officials euthanized the monkey so it could be tested for rabies and a strain of herpes common to primates.

That Boris would be spared was good news to a group of Douglas County fifth-graders who have been following the Prairie Wind stories in The Denver Post and then discussing the tiger's fate in class.

All 27 pupils in Lisa Buhler's Buffalo Ridge Elementary School class wrote letters to Jurich saying Boris should be spared.

'Not one person thought Boris should die,' Buhler said.
Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Big cats 'on the increase' - "Evidence" includes footage of a suspected "Fen tiger"

Big cats are on the loose in Britain and breeding their way towards record
numbers, a monitoring group has claimed.

The British Big Cats Society said it has received more than 800 reports of
animals including pumas, black panthers, leopards and so-called Fen tigers
over the past 12 months.

And while it admits that many sightings are of nothing more exotic than the average moggy, it claims to have "firm evidence" that the majority are real. Society founder Daniel Bamping told BBC News Online he could cope with the critics and doubters, adding: "I was a sceptic, I thought it was in the same realm as the Loch Ness monster.

"But it's not, they are really out there."

'Cats with cubs'

Mr Bamping said there have been reports of big cats from every corner of the country.

"This weekend alone I have had sightings from Wales, the Scottish borders, Kent, the West Midlands, Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire," he said.

The society claims some of the big cats are breeding with domestic animals.

But Mr Bamping said others, particularly lynx and puma, probably exist in sufficient numbers to breed among themselves.

"We have had sightings of cats with cubs," he added.

'Trigger camera'

The society claims to have evidence proving the cats' existence, including photographs, paw prints, sheep kills and hair samples.

But it knows it will have to do even more to convince a sceptical public that it is not spinning them a shaggy cat story.

A national "trigger camera" project is planned which, the society hopes, will provide footage to prove the existence of the big cats.

Mr Bamping said: "The idea is that the cat will walk past the camera and take a picture of itself."

'Like dogs'

The society believes many of the sighting are of pets released into the wild, or their descendants.

Its spokesman Danny Nineham said: "In the 1960s and 1970s, people had big cats like leopards as pets and they used to walk them like dogs.

"But in 1976 when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act came into force, people released their cats because they did not want to pay for a licence, put them down, or take them to a zoo."

Cat Fanciers With an increasing number of Texans keeping tigers as pets, some in the state fear more maulings and deaths
Date: 04-16-2001; Publication: People; Author: Alex Tresniowski Gabrielle Cosgriff in Houston and Pritchett

By: Alex Tresniowski Gabrielle Cosgriff in Houston and Pritchett Publication: People Issue: April 16, 2001 Vol. 55 No. 15 Publication Date: 04-16-2001 Page: 111+ Section: Controversy
It's getting late in Pritchett, Texas--time for Mary and Michael Irons to say goodnight to Kitty, the family cat. This entails unlatching a 9-ft.-high chain-link perimeter fence in the yard beside their three-bedroom home, then opening the 20-ft.-by-20-ft. cage that houses Kitty, a 400-lb. Bengal-Siberian-mix tiger. While Kitty takes a final spin around the yard with Mufasa, the Ironses' 300-lb. lion and Kitty's cagemate, Mary tells how she used to hand-feed Kitty hunks of raw chicken. "One time he missed the chicken and bit my hand," says Mary, 39. "Blood was going everywhere. When I got to the emergency room I told them it was a dog. They would have thought I was crazy if I said it was a tiger."

They wouldn't have been the only ones. All across the go-your-own-way state of Texas, zoologists, conservationists, politicians and just plain worried neighbors are asking the same puzzled question: Why are there so many privately owned tigers in the state? By some accounts Texas has the largest population of tigers in the world, between 2,000 and 4,000, roughly half of all the tigers in the U.S. and probably more even than India, which has an estimated 3,000, mostly in the wild. Just as surprising is the virtual lack of regulation: Texas is one of only a handful of states with no laws on the keeping and breeding of big cats. (A bill that would regulate ownership of dangerous wild animals is currently on track to pass into law.) The result: lots of undertrained citizens trying to handle wild animals that grow more dangerous as they mature. "It's a frightening situation," says Stacey Wilbanks of the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is lobbying for increased regulation. "It's like having a loaded gun in the house. People see a cuddly cub, but at three months the tiger is tearing up your house, and at one year it's stalking your children."

Just such disasters routinely force the issue into the spotlight. Among the dozen or so reported incidents over the past several years are a 10-year-old girl mauled to death by her stepfather's tiger in Yorktown; a 13-year-old boy nearly eaten alive by a tiger and a lion near Caldwell; 4-year-old Jayton Tidwell attacked in Channelview by his uncle's tiger, which ripped off Jayton's right arm (Jayton, now 5, has limited use of his arm after reattachment surgery; the tiger was sent to live with friends of its owner's). "These animals are untamed in their heart and can snap back to their natural instincts in an instant," says Jennifer Howell, Jayton's mother. "They are not pets, they are wild animals, point blank."

That, it seems, is precisely why some people like to have them around. "They have this allure; they represent power and beauty and mystery," explains "Jungle" Jay Riggs, 36, who owns more than 60 tigers and runs what he calls a sanctuary in Bridgeport, northwest of Dallas, where he takes in unwanted tigers. "We often get people who come up and say they'd like to own a big cat," he says. "We educate them on what it takes to feed and house them, and they end up saying, 'God, that's too much work.'" Owners unprepared for the commitment involved may wind up mistreating, abandoning or even selling their tigers to be hunted illegally. "People don't want to know what happens to the tigers they sell," says Dr. Ronald Tilson, a tiger specialist with the American Zoological Association. "No one tracks them." Adds Jim Boller, chief cruelty investigator for the Houston SPCA: "Someone has this cute little cub that gets bigger and more aggressive, so they call a zoo. But the zoos and sanctuaries are inundated, so they end up calling the taxidermist or a hunting preserve."

Yet most of the hundreds of private owners in Texas do not neglect, abandon or otherwise endanger their tigers, claims veterinarian Randall Spencer, who treats some 30 tigers in his practice in Gilmer, not far from where the Ironses live. "The biggest problem we see is bone diseases from improper nutrition, but other than that I don't see any starving tigers around," he says. "Most people take good care of them."

Indeed, most owners argue that they are good citizens and shouldn't be held responsible for the lapses of others. "I hate that a tiger bit somebody's arm off down in Houston, but why penalize the rest of us for what this one individual did?" asks Mary's husband, Michael, 53, a disabled veteran. "We have more people dog-bit, but we don't even have a leash law in most places. It's just easier for politicians to pick on some dramatic story." In fact, Texas's Department of Parks and Wildlife decided to stop regulating animal ownership in 1995, prompting a steady call for stricter ownership standards. "We've had an enormous influx of animals into Texas [since 1995], and yet there's less regulation on tigers than on cats and dogs," says Robert Trimble, a Dallas attorney who volunteers for the Texas Humane Legislation Network, which wants to register animals, impose cage regulations and have owners post liability bonds. "We're not trying to tell people they cannot own these animals; we're saying that with ownership comes a responsibility to the community."

State regulation might have saved the life of 10-year-old Lauren Casey Villafana, who in 1999 was mauled to death by a Siberian tiger in Yorktown while standing inside its cage with its owner, her stepfather, Bobby Hranicky. (Hranicky received a 10-year suspended sentence and a $5,000 fine for reckless endangerment of a minor and is appealing the sentence.) Richard Villafana, Lauren's father, has lobbied legislators for stricter screening of potential tiger owners. "What's tragic," he says, "is that it would take the death of a child to make the Texas legislature wake up and do the right thing." Some say it may take more than that. "I believe the only thing that will stimulate the Texas legislature is several deaths," says Dennis White, director of the Southwest district of the Humane Society of the U.S. "Texas is a very independently minded state, and people are just fascinated by these animals."

Just ask Mary Irons, who bought Kitty and another tiger, Baby, for $1,500 apiece in 1993. "I decided to get them just to fix my neighbors," she says, referring to a family that she says harassed her about the two wild cougars she owned. (The neighbors have since moved away.) "I think it's my right as a U.S. citizen to have these cats," adds Irons, the mother of three grown children and an assistant at a home for disabled children. "If people say we can't have them, they're messing with my constitutional rights."

After she and her husband finally get Kitty and Mufasa back in their cage, Michael explains how he sometimes has to smack Kitty with a shovel, "just so he knows who's boss," he says. "He'll watch me with his ears back, and he'll get that eye-of-the-tiger stare, and I know what he's up to: He's fixing to charge me."

Still, he insists, there's no danger in owning a tiger as long as you know what you're doing. "They're wild animals," he concedes. "They're part of our family, but they're not pets. I don't turn my back on 'em." Neither, it seems, should his friends and neighbors.

Tua fails in bid to rescue man mauled by tiger
Date: 03-29-2001; Publication: The Toronto Star; Author:

Tua fails in bid to rescue man mauled by tiger LAS VEGAS (AP) - A tiger killed a man who was grooming the animal for an advertising photo, despite rescue efforts by boxer David Tua, who trains nearby.

Eric Bloom, 25, was killed Sunday as he and the tiger's owner, Josh Weinstein, were working with the animal at Safari Wildlife, which provides exotic animals for film and show work.

Police said the 7-year-old Bengal tiger, named Jagger, put its paw on Bloom's shoulder, pushed him to the ground and then bit him in the neck.

Tua - whose training facility is at the same ranch as Safari Wildlife, about 25 kilometres northwest of Las Vegas - heard the screams and ran to the tiger's cage, said the boxer's manager, Kevin Barry.

``The tiger had Eric's head in his mouth,'' Barry said. ``Josh Weinstein was ferociously hitting the tiger with a spade.

``David ran off to grab some towels and ring the ambulance.''

When Tua returned, Weinstein had pulled the tiger's mouth open and gotten Bloom out of the cage.

Tua and Weinstein tried but could not stop the bleeding, Barry said.

Tua, a native of Samoa, has posed with the tiger several times for promotional pictures, including last year before his world heavyweight title fight at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino against Lennox Lewis. Tua lost that fight.

The tiger was quarantined while the investigation continues.

More Americans Are Owning Tigers, CBS
Date: 03-23-2001; Publication: CBS Evening News with Dan Rather; Author: John Roberts, Maureen Maher

JOHN ROBERTS, ANCHOR: An Ohio man is recovering from a harrowing experience this week, an attack by a tiger. The mauling happened at a pet farm. Dangerous as they can be, growing numbers of Americans are buying the big cats as backyard pets.

As Maureen Maher reports in tonight`s "Eye on America," this can mean sleepless nights for the neighbors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MAUREEN MAHER, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are big, beautiful...

JEREMY PETERSON, TIGER OWNER: He likes me, because (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tender spot.

MAHER: ... and unpredictable. Big cats are a big industry in the United States, with an estimated 15,000 exotic cats caged in back yards across the country. Jeremy Peterson keeps his tiger on his farm.

(on camera): Do you need a license to own him?

PETERSON: No, not at this point.

MAHER: Do you have any regulations or stipulations about owning him?

PETERSON: Not at this point.

MAHER (voice-over): Peterson`s 200-pound-plus pet Bengal is locked up in a 9-by-16 cage, where he`ll keep the tiger until he can build a bigger pen. He says no one is in danger, including his 4-year-old daughter.

Neighbors disagree.

LEAH FRANDSEN, NEIGHBOR: It`s hard to be in your own yard worried about something coming over that`s -- you don`t stand a chance against.

MAHER: She has cause for concern. Nearly three dozen violent attacks and incidents of escaped animals were reported in the last five years.

(on camera): It`s perfectly legal to own an exotic animal, according to the federal government, which only regulates commercial exhibits like zoos and breeders. In fact, the laws in most cities make it easier to own a tiger than a dog or a house cat.

The government, then, does not have a responsibility to follow through after the breeding stage.

RON DEHAVEN, USDA: I don`t think that we have the authority or the responsibility, and as is typical with many government agencies, we just simply don`t have the resources.

MAHER (voice-over): The responsibility to regulate exotic pets rests with the states. Thirty-nine allow legal ownership of tigers, more than a dozen have no restrictions at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Jimmy right here.

MAHER: And buying a wild cat is remarkably easy. Hundreds of backyard breeders advertise on the Internet, like this one taped by a CBS undercover camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jimmy I`ll sell for six, and Sarah for eight.

MAHER: Eight hundred dollars for an adult tiger, up to $2,500 for cubs. They start out like this.


MAHER: But often grow up to be like this.

Brian Werner says many pet tigers are abused, neglected, and end up in a refuge like the one he runs in Texas.

WERNER: If once the tiger`s bred and the baby is sold out the door, and it goes in the hands of an individual, there`s no accountability.

MAHER: Months after we visited, Jeremy Peterson still has not built a new cage, and he now has a second tiger, a cub, inside the house. Peterson says he does care about his animals and supports increased regulations.

PETERSON: As long as they`re within reason.

MAHER: But for those who live nearby, there`s already a reason to keep exotic animals out of America`s neighborhoods.

In Tyler, Texas, I`m Maureen Maher for Eye on America.


Date: 03-03-1996; Publication: St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Author: Ann Landers

Dear Ann Landers: I am sending you a newspaper clipping from the Chicago Tribune about a child who was mauled by the family's pet tiger. It made me absolutely sick. Who in his right mind would buy a 350- pound wild animal for a family pet, especially when there were children in the household? Here's the story: "A 3-year-old boy was attacked by his family's Bengal tiger on Thanksgiving Day and spent 14 hours in an operating room as surgeons treated him for severe head and face wounds, North Carolina officials said Friday.

"Tyler William Forsythe was in critical condition after procedures to repair damage to his nerves and eyes. He also had emergency plastic surgery. "Police said the boy was attacked by a 1-year-old, 350-pound tiger the family bought last summer. The father kept the declawed animal in a pen in a Raleigh suburb. He and his children were visiting it when the tiger attacked Tyler." Ann, that tiger was then put to sleep for doing what tigers do naturally. And now the macho-man father has to deal with his son's crippling injuries for the rest of his life. There should be laws in this country to protect a wild beast from human stupidity. DISGUSTED IN NEW YORK

We spoke with a police reporter at the Raleigh News and Observer, and these are the facts: The father purchased the tiger as a cub and kept it in a chain- link cage on his in-laws' property. On Thanksgiving, he took the tiger out for a walk on a leash. That was the first time his children had been permitted to see the animal. Unfortunately, the little boy was allowed to get too close. After the attack, the father shot the tiger once. When the police arrived, the tiger was still alive. They shot it again and killed it. The father was convicted of misdemeanor child abuse. He was given a $100 fine, 12 months' probation and 100 hours of community service, along with a stern lecture from the judge. The boy was sent to Wake Medical Center in Raleigh in critical condition and was later transferred to Duke Medical Center at Duke University. He is now at home, undergoing rehabilitation.

Mauled by lions, movie stars seek new laws
Date: 03-29-2000; Publication: Reuters; Author: Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON, March 29 (Reuters) - What do actresses and animal lovers Bo Derek, Melanie Griffith and her mother Tippi Hedren have in common?
They have all been mauled by lions and came out in support of a proposed U.S. bill announced on Wednesday to protect public safety by regulating the sale, breeding and possession of wild animals such as lions, tigers and leopards.

Flanked by the actresses as well as famous Muppet Kermit the Frog, California Democrat, Representative Tom Lantos said he hoped the bill would be proposed and signed before the end of the current Congressional session.

``All too often, wild animals are kept as pets under conditions that do not assure the safety of people nearby or that are cruel to animals, '' said Lantos, who was interrupted several times during the news conference by Kermit.

Thousands of exotic animals are kept as pets in the United States, often in cruel conditions, and Hedren said there were nearly as many ``pet'' tigers as the estimated 7,500 left in the wild worldwide.

Hedren, the star of Alfred Hitchcock's classic film ``The Birds'' runs a refuge called Shambala Preserve in California for wild animals and the bill will be named after the refuge.

The actress said the first lion she ``adopted'' in the 1970s had been living with a California doctor who could no longer handle the big cat. Soon after adopting the lion, many more discarded ``pets' ' were dropped off at her refuge.

``Many accidents have happened by having wild animals as pets,'' said Hedren. ``I believe that anyone taking in a wild animal as a pet is making a very grave error,'' she added.

In a high-profile case this month, a four-year-old Houston boy had his arm reattached after it was bitten off by his uncle's pet Bengal tiger.

``I always wondered why there were no federal laws to prevent this. We kept hearing about people being hurt, people not being able to handle these animals and there are not enough sanctuaries to go around, '' said Hedren. ``This is a public safety issue.''

While doing a film on lions with her mother when she was 19 years old, Griffith said she was attacked by a lioness on the set and had to have 50 stitches on her face. She thought at the time she had lost an eye.

``I knew these cats and they knew me and it was a friendly thing. But if people are allowed to have these wild animals in their homes and they don't know how to deal with them, they will get much more than a scratch,'' she said.

It took five years to finish the film. ``The reason it took five years was because my mother was mauled, I was mauled. There was a flood and there was a fire. ... It didn't take so long because we were bad actors,'' said Griffith.

Bo Derek, famous for her screen goddess role in the movie ``10,'' was attacked by a lion while filming ``Tarzan, the Ape Man'' in the sea. She said a huge wave saved her from more serious injury.

Kermit, the only celebrity not attacked by a lion, joked he did not want to capitalise on Griffith's misfortune but wished to point out that they both had stitches. ``But in my case it's a good thing otherwise I'd just be flat lying on the table.''

Kermit said he did not want to appear as ``just another talking frog' ' from Capitol Hill. ``We need to pass this bill to prevent the continuing abuse and cruelty toward exotic animals in this country,'' he said.

Boy's arm is reattached after attack by pet tiger: 4-yearold reached into cage of 400 pound cat
Date: 03-17-2000; Publication: The Dallas Morning News; Author: Bruce Nichols / Houston Bureau of The Dallas Morning News

HOUSTON - A 4-year-old boy whose right arm was ripped off by his uncle's 400-pound pet tiger was recovering in a hospital Thursday after surgeons worked all night to reattach the limb.
Jayton Tidwell of Brazoria was in serious but stable condition Thursday evening. Doctors said they were optimistic that the surgery was successful, though the boy may never have full use of the arm.

The boy and his family were visiting Larry Tidwell in the Channelview community east of Houston on Wednesday when the incident occurred, a Harris County Sheriff's Department spokesman said.

The boy apparently slipped out of the house while adults weren' t looking, went outside and reached inside the animal's cage to pet it, Sheriff's Lt. Gerald Warren said.

"The tiger grabbed the kid's arm and basically bit or ripped it off," Lt. Warren said. The animal took the right arm off just above the elbow, he said.

The animal, which officials said is a 4-year-old female that weighs about 400 pounds and is declawed, did not appear upset and did not maul or try to eat the arm, so relatives responding to the child's screams were able to retrieve the limb, pack it in ice and take it and the boy to the hospital, deputies said.

Surgeons at Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital worked through the night Wednesday reattaching the limb.

"The surgical team was able to reconnect the blood vessels and reattach the arm within a crucial six-hour window of time," a hospital statement said.

Dr. Mark Henry, who led the nine-hour surgery, hesitated to speculate how much use the boy might have of the arm, but he predicted months or years of reconstructive surgery to repair tendons and nerves and lots of rehabilitation.

"Dr. Henry believes Jayton's best chance for a strong prognosis is his young age and a child's greater ability to regenerate his nerves and the ability of his brain to understand these changes," the statement said.

The uncle was cited for failure to have a county permit to keep such an animal, a Class C misdemeanor carrying a maximum $500 fine, but other charges appeared unlikely, Lt. Warren said.

"It's one of those deals that unless it could be gross negligence, which I doubt, or endangering a child, which I doubt, there probably may not be any further charges. But it is being investigated," Lt. Warren said.

"The family was very distraught . . . and neighbors were kind of shocked, because apparently it's a neighborhood kind of pet," he said. "People would pet it, swim with it in a swimming pool."

Neighbors told investigators the animal, named Cheyenne, "had never harmed anyone," said Colleen Hodges, education coordinator for Harris County Animal Control.

Such an incident falls within the jurisdiction of Harris County Children's Protective Services, but spokeswoman Judy Hay could not comment on whether CPS was investigating.

Animal control officers decided to leave the animal at Mr. Tidwell' s house because rabies appeared unlikely and the cage where the uncle kept the tiger was fairly secure, a spokeswoman said.

"This is not a high-risk animal for rabies, which is why it's not being euthanized, decapitated and sent for testing," Ms. Hodges said. "For the purposes of rabies quarantine, it is sufficiently confined that he can keep it there for 30 days."

The cage that Mr. Tidwell had built for his pet was substantial but would have to be improved to meet standards for getting a county permit to keep a tiger, Ms. Hodges said.

For instance, the enclosure's fence is less than the required 8 feet in height, and the top is covered by a tarp instead of required chain link fencing, she said.

Keeping such an animal is a high-risk proposition under any circumstances, and experts don't recommend it, said Jim Robertson, director of law enforcement for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

"All of these animals have tendencies to revert back to the wild. They're dangerous. They will hurt or kill you," Mr. Robertson said. "That's why we feel like they need to be regulated, and regulated in the public safety sense."

The Texas Legislature took Parks and Wildlife out of the business of regulating exotic and wild animals as of Sept. 1, 1997, Mr. Robertson said, and turned the responsibility over to local governments.

Parks and Wildlife's mission is protecting native Texas species, and lions, tigers and the like are not native to Texas, Mr. Robertson said. Public safety is more a local matter, he said.

"Local jurisdictions ought to be able to totally restrict them from their area or impose cage requirements that absolutely will not let them out and endanger someone's safety," he said.

Houston bans the keeping of such animals, but Channelview is in Harris County, outside the Houston city limits.

The county has imposed some regulation on the keeping of such animals. But Ms. Hodges said her department has not been given the necessary equipment to handle them or the authority to charge for licenses.

"Owning exotic animals is not a good idea," Ms. Hodges said. "If you want a pet, we have lots of little dogs and cats for you to adopt."

Larry Tidwell Jayton Tidwell Dr. Mark Henry, an orthopedic trauma specialist at Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital in Houston, led the nine-hour surgery to reattach Jayton Tidwell's arm. PHOTO(S): 1. Larry Tidwell 2. Jayton Tidwell (3. Associated Press) Dr. Mark Henry, an orthopedic trauma specialist at Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital in Houston, led the nine-hour surgery to reattach Jayton Tidwell's arm.

KILLER PETS: State has duty to control animals
Date: 04-15-1997; Publication: The Dallas Morning News; Author:

In Burleson County last month, a grandfather's exotic cats attacked his 13-year-old grandchild. In a Far North Dallas home two weeks ago, a bobcat mauled a 2-year-old child. The animal was owned by the toddler' s mother's boyfriend.

These two incidents are only the latest reminders about why wild or exotic animals are not suitable as "pets." They also provide graphic reasons about why people should not be allowed to keep such animals as pets.

Appropriately, Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, has introduced legislation in the Texas House to ban ownership of exotic animals as pets. Sen. Mike Moncrief, D-Fort Worth, has introduced the same bill in the Texas Senate. Passage of these bills is a must.

Taking wild animals out of their native habitats doesn't take away the instincts needed to survive in the wild. An animal's instinct to kill for food and protect itself often clashes with the domesticated life that has been forced upon it. As the two recent incidents prove, the clashes can create serious, if not fatal, injuries to children and adults.

The incidents are equally detrimental to the animals. In many cases, the animals end up being put to death. Injuries also often occur at the hands of their owners, who simply don't know enough about wild animals to properly care for them.

The Goodman and Moncrief legislation would go far toward protecting people, common pets and exotic animals by barring ownership of 20 dangerous animals. The list includes lions, tigers, bears, wolves, bobcats and nonhuman primates. Anyone owning those animals - outside of zoos, circuses, wildlife sanctuaries, research facilities or other accredited entities - would be subjected to a misdemeanor charge and a $1,000-per-day fine.

Current owners of wild or exotic animals could still keep them. But an owner would have to obtain a permit within 90 days after the law goes into effect. Each also would have to purchase at least a $250,000 liability insurance policy to cover damages from an animal attack.

An existing law gives the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department power to regulate the license for exotic animals. But it expires in September. The new legislation is needed to restrict ownership of wild and exotic animals to organizations and facilities which are properly equipped to care for and confine the animals. Public safety in this state demands it.