Friday, April 27, 2007

Press release of the day

Hot off the presses, from one of the congresswomen I covered while I was in D.C.:
Contact: Thomas Seay, (785) 234-8111
April 27, 2007


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congresswoman Nancy Boyda (Kansas Second District) has introduced bipartisan federal legislation to protect the public from attacks by captive big cats, such as lions and tigers, at facilities licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Boyda serves on the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, which oversees the USDA. Her bill, H.R. 1947, also known as Haley's Act, is named in memory of Haley Hilderbrand, a 17-year-old high school student who was killed by a 550-pound Siberian tiger at a USDA-licensed facility while being photographed for her senior picture. Haley was originally scheduled to be photographed with two tiger cubs.

There are currently more than 10,000 captive big cats, such as tigers and lions, held captive in the U.S. In recent years, captive big cats have killed more than a dozen people and injured more than 50 people. Many big cats are owned by individuals or organizations that have been licensed by the USDA to exhibit, breed, or sell these dangerous wild animals. While the terms of the license include certain requirements for the care of the big cats, the license does not address risks to public safety, nor does it firmly prohibit direct contact between the public and big cats.

Congresswoman Boyda said, "Lions and tigers are wild animals, not pets, and USDA-licensed facilities should treat these creatures accordingly. Congress must establish strict guidelines to prevent further tragedies from occurring due to poor safety standards and minimal fines."

Haley's Act is cosponsored by Boyda's three Kansas colleagues, Reps. Dennis Moore (D-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Todd Tiahrt (R-KS).

Last year, after Haley's death, the Kansas state legislature banned the private ownership of big cats as pets and forbade public contact with big cats at USDA facilities to help prevent future tragedies. However, the problem extends well beyond Kansas. In 2006 and 2007 alone there were big cat incidents, including escapes or attacks, from California to Texas to Indiana to North Carolina and Florida. These states have yet to enact a prohibition on direct contact at USDA facilities.

"If a law to prevent direct contact between big cats and the public were in place already, Haley might still be with us today," said Haley Hilderbrand's parents, Ronda and Mike Good, who have worked closely with legislators and IFAW to champion the legislation in Topeka and Washington. "If Congress acts soon, we can save lives."

Haley's Act would amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to prohibit direct contact between the general public and big cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars and hybrids. The bill does not discourage public display of big cats in accredited zoos, or housing big cats in sanctuaries, but rather seeks to strengthen safety for the public. It also significantly increases fines for violations of the AWA to further encourage facilities to abide by the law and treat the animals well.



haahnster said...

In recent years, captive big cats have killed more than a dozen people and injured more than 50 people.

Not to belittle anyone's personal tragedy...I think heart disease, cancer, AIDS, etc. might kill more than that. Are we doing all we can to fight those killers?

Just an initial reaction...maybe I'll come around on the big-cat legislation.

Kairsten said...

Well, the thing about big cat attacks is often after the attack, the cat gets put down or otherwise punished. For doing what comes perfectly natural! So I see this as legislation just as much to protect the animals as it is to protect people.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I like protecting both. Clearly!

Rob said...

I got no beef with H.R. 1947 -- it obviously makes sense to have a law that keeps lions and tigers away from children! I just posted this bc. I don't often see lions and tigers mentioned in congressional press releases.