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U.S. Senate introduces two bills aimed at improving the welfare of captive wild animals and safeguarding public safety

WASHINGTON (October 1, 2019)—The Humane Society Legislative Fund applauds the introduction to the U.S. Senate of two bills aimed at improving the welfare of captive wild animals and safeguarding public safety—the Big Cat Public Safety Act and the Captive Primate Safety Act. Both bills were introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The Big Cat Public Safety Act prohibits public contact with captive tigers, lions, and other big cat species, and prohibits possession of big cats by individuals and entities lacking a USDA license. Some animal exhibitors make money by selling interactive experiences with big cat infants—petting, feeding, taking pictures with, or even swimming with them—to the public. Not only does this harm the cubs’ healthy development, but it also creates a huge captive population of adult big cats: after just a few months, when the cubs are too large to be handled, they frequently end up in the possession of substandard facilities or private individuals. These entities usually lack the knowledge and resources to meet the animals’ complex needs, and often do not take proper steps to protect the public from these dangerous wild animals. Other adults land on the doorsteps of legitimate sanctuaries, but their capacity is dwarfed by the country’s surplus of big cats. Meanwhile, the vicious cycle continues, with new litters bred to meet the never-ending demand for cub interaction experiences. This bill does not impact professionally run zoos and sanctuaries or their conservation programs. The House companion bill H.R. 1380—which has already passed the House Natural Resources Committee—was introduced by Reps. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and has 129 bipartisan cosponsors Nonhuman primates should never be kept as pets. Highly intelligent and social wild animals, primates’ behaviors and needs make them incompatible as pets. The adults of even the smaller primate species are powerful, unpredictable, and often aggressive. In addition, primates can spread potentially deadly infections and diseases to people, including tuberculosis and Herpes B virus. Keeping primates as pets is therefore not only cruel, but also dangerous for the owners and the general public. Despite this, primates can be readily purchased from exotic animal dealers and over the internet. To address this problem, the Captive Primate Safety Act prohibits interstate or foreign commerce involving nonhuman primates for the exotic pet trade. Licensed facilities such as zoos, circuses, research institutions, and sanctuaries are exempt, thus focusing the bill on private possession. The House companion bill, H.R.1776, was introduced by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and has 48 bipartisan cosponsors. Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, offered the following statement: “These common-sense bills improve the lives of captive wild animals and protect the public. The desire to hold an adorable baby tiger is natural. But the short-lived thrill of a Facebook photo with a tiger cub on your lap means a lifetime of misery for the cub and creates a crisis-level surplus of captive big cats. And keeping primates as pets is so cruel and risky for all involved that experts, including renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, oppose it. I applaud Senator Blumenthal for introducing this legislation.”

Media contact:
Emily Ehrhorn: 202-779-1814; eehrhorn@humanesociety.org

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The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at hslf.org, on our blog at animalsandpolitics.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/humanelegislation and on Twitter at twitter.com/HSLegFund.