Lions And Zoos

State ban on public contact with bears and big cats goes into effect this week | New

Indiana’s law banning direct public contact with big cats and bears goes into effect July 1. The implementation of this law brings much-needed protection to some of the animals that have been subjected to public manipulation and forced to live in appalling facilities in the state.

Roadside zoo operators take young animals away from their mothers at birth, pass them to visitors so they can pet the young and bottle-feed them until they reach the age of a few months, and discard them when they can no longer generate profit for the zoo.

Over the past two decades, law enforcement has intervened to remove animals from facilities in Charlestown, Flat Rock, Idaville, Gary and other locations in Indiana.

The state’s new ban on public contact with big cats and bears will help prevent such situations from happening in the first place.

When Tim Stark’s Wildlife in Need in Charlestown closed in November 2020, it had 16 tigers, six lions, seven tiger-lion hybrids, six cougars, two leopards and three bears on the property.

Over the years, Stark — who featured in the Netflix series “Tiger King” — has racked up dozens of citations for violating federal animal welfare law.

It wasn’t until the Indiana attorney general won a 2021 lawsuit against Stark for animal abuse and neglect that the more than 200 animals at his facility at the time were confiscated, at cost. of $95,676 for the State.

Samantha Morton, Indiana State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, who worked with lawmakers on this bill, said, “By passing this bill, Indiana has recognized that big cats and bears are not props or commercial products and should not languish. at roadside zoos for a photo opportunity by the paying public. Besides the cruelty to these wild animals, it is a risk to public safety. Several people, including children, were bitten and scratched by tigers at Stark’s Wildlife in Need between 2014 and 2015.”

In Flat Rock, authorities removed more than 30 big cats and bears from horrific living conditions in 2005. Two years after two tigers escaped from Great Cats of Indiana in Idaville in 2010, authorities seized six big cats from this establishment. And the US Department of Agriculture seized four tigers from a tattoo parlor in Gary in 2010.

These facilities were all involved in the Cub petting industry, either as breeders of big cats, as dumping grounds for unwanted big cats, or by providing public contact with the animals.

Indiana’s decision to ban direct contact with certain dangerous wildlife follows similar restrictions in Nevada, Virginia, Kansas, Connecticut, Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

State Rep. David Abbott, R-Rome City, Rep. Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette, and state Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Elkhart, were lead sponsors of the legislation, which passed both by the Indiana State Senate and the House of Representatives. with multiple bipartisan co-sponsors on March 11, 2022.

“Rep. Abbott, Rep. Campbell, Sen. Doriot and Governor Holcomb have done the right thing for the animals and people of our state by supporting and signing this important bipartisan legislation,” Morton said.

Facilities like those in Indiana are also found in other parts of the country. The Humane Society of the United States has conducted undercover investigations at roadside zoos across the country, including GW Exotics and Joe Exotic’s Tiger Safari in Oklahoma and the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia. The HSUS has documented that cubs that are used for public interaction are snatched from their mothers at birth and physically disciplined by being slapped, kicked, dragged and choked. At just a few months old, the cubs are too big to handle and are thrown away and replaced with new babies. The plethora of big cats in captivity in the United States is largely the result of this abusive industry.

At the federal level, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, HR 263 and S. 1210, is gaining momentum. This legislation would advance animal welfare and protect public safety by prohibiting public contact with big cats such as tigers, lions and leopards, and prohibit the possession of these species as pets.