Americans got a crash course in exotic animal ownership in 2011 when Zanesville resident Terry Thompson released 18 Tigers, 17 Lions, 8 Bears, 3 Cougars, 2 Wolves, 1 Baboon, and 1 Macaque he owned before killing himself. People around the world watched in disbelief and horror as those animals were hunted down and killed by law enforcement, but really there was no other option to handling the situation. Chris Heath of GQ Magazine penned an excellent in-depth article about the tragedy.
Then we learned there are more tigers privately owned in the US than live in the wild throughout the world.
The Humane Society of the US estimates there are 10,000 captive tigers in the US. I say estimate because there is no mandatory reporting of ownership nationwide. Here in Forida there’s thought to be 1500 tigers in private hands, more than in any other state. Imagine what’s going to happen if a hurricane releases tigers down here in Florida Man’s backyard!
After Zanesville, Ohio passed a law in 2012 requiring owners of exotic animals, including big cats, to carry insurance or a bond on the exotic animal, meet minimum cage and space requirements, and have the animal neutered. Buying, selling, and breeding is banned except for zoos. This law that took effect in 2014 is more than window dressing; the state is actually enforcing the law, and have confiscated animals from owners who are non-compliant.
And that is how Teisha ended up at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. Teisha, a 13-year-old tiger owned by Mike Stapleton of Columbus, Ohio, was in such bad shape she didn’t move when state officials came in to remove her and the other tigers. The first week she was in the care of Ohio Department of Agriculture employees, she didn’t get up, and even eliminated while continuing to lie down.
But thanks to initial vet care received by ODA and extensive care received at Big Cat Rescue, Teisha is now standing and even walking a bit.
Teisha’s rescue is a true feel-good story, but there are thousands of other tigers out there who are slaughtered for their parts, warehoused until the target of a canned hunt (just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it isn’t happening), or living out their days pacing back and forth in small cages (like Tony the Tiger, housed at a truck stop in Slidell, LA).
Folks, I simply do not understand why we as a nation are allowing this to continue. There is no good reason to have a tiger as a pet. None. Nope, that’s not a good reason. Neither is that.
So why in the hell do we allow ten thousand tigers to remain in private hands here the US?
Simply put: we don’t care enough to do something about it.
And for that reason I hope another tragedy like Zanesville happens, but this time somebody dies, preferably a young, blonde, white girl. She should die slowly. Horribly. And it must be caught on video.
Because, as hideous as that sounds, it’s probably the only way we’ll get motivated enough to end exotic animal ownership in the US.