Big cats, big prob­lems

They don’t re­spond to ‘Here, Kitty’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

SOME­BODY once noted yet an­other dif­fer­ence be­tween dogs and cats: If I shrunk to an inch tall, I could still scold my dog, and he’d still droop his head. My cat would eat me.

Just as there is no need to ever own a pit pull dog (“It never harmed a fly, un­til it killed my tod­dler”) there is no need to own a large cat. And we’re not talk­ing about fat tab­bies.

Com­mon sense should also dic­tate that tigers, lions, cougars, et al., are not good com­pan­ions for us two­legged types. Un­for­tu­nately, com­mon sense isn’t al­ways com­mon.

Some peo­ple think they can own big cats like any other an­i­mal with­out con­se­quence. Or, more likely, they think it’s cool to own the crit­ters when they’re small and can be shown around town in a zipped-up jacket. But the things do grow up. And start eat­ing many pounds of meat ev­ery day.

Even beyond the threat to pet own­ers, their chil­dren, and their pock­et­books, keep­ing a tiger in the back­yard is harm­ful to the an­i­mal if you’re not re­ally cer­tain what you’re do­ing.

For these rea­sons and more, we’d like to call upon our con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion to sup­port the Big Cat Pub­lic Safety Act in both the House and the Se­nate. Here’s lan­guage from the bill: “This bill amends the Lacey Act Amend­ments of 1981 to pro­hibit any per­son from breed­ing or pos­sess­ing pro­hib­ited wildlife species (i.e., any live species of lion, tiger, leop­ard, chee­tah, jaguar, or cougar or any hy­brid of such species).”

If passed, this bill would im­pose a max­i­mum fine of $20,000 and a max­i­mum pri­son sen­tence of five years on vi­o­la­tors.

Thank­fully, Arkansas has a law that bans the own­er­ship of bears, lions and tigers. And be­fore you think this isn’t a real prob­lem (be­cause who would own one of these dan­ger­ous an­i­mals?), let us share a tale from Caven Clark, Na­tional Park Ser­vice Li­ai­son for the Buf­falo Na­tional River.

Mr. Clark told us about a man who owned a tiger back in 2008. Af­ter a while, the man de­cided he couldn’t af­ford to feed it any more (go fig­ure; they eat 10-25 pounds of meat ev­ery day), and de­cided to re­lease it near Er­bie Camp­ground in the up­per Buf­falo River area. Can you imag­ine go­ing for a nice camp­ing trip in the Ozarks and run­ning into a tiger?

Thank­fully, the tiger was cap­tured by of­fi­cials, who found the man who re­leased it. No­body was hurt. But that story could have ended very dif­fer­ently. Hun­gry tigers and peo­ple don’t mix well.

The only place tigers be­long in the Ozarks is at Tur­pen­tine Creek, where they have a trained staff to take care of the crea­tures.

Like we said ear­lier, cer­tain large car­ni­vores are al­ready pro­hib­ited from be­ing kept as pets in Arkansas, but bob­cats and coy­otes are still al­lowed to be kept, ac­cord­ing to the Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion. In fact, peo­ple can have up to six, plucked right out of the wild. We’d rec­om­mend this be changed, too. No coy­ote or bob­cat is ever go­ing to be a good pet. They’re called wildlife, em­pha­sis on wild.

It’s hard to imag­ine a good ar­gu­ment for al­low­ing peo­ple to keep big cats. Is there a big tiger lobby? If you’re look­ing for a good furry friend, call your lo­cal an­i­mal shel­ter. Ev­ery­thing they have will be le­gal and love you un­con­di­tion­ally.

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