The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is soliciting public comments on a petition authored by a coalition of animal welfare and conservation groups that calls for a ban on direct public contact with big cats, bears and nonhuman primates under the Animal Welfare Act. Please support this critical action for captive wildlife by submitting your own comments on or before the new deadline of November 18, 2013.
The USDA regulates the public exhibition of exotic animals, but public contact with these animals is essentially unmonitored. Currently, members of the public can pet, feed, train, pose with, play with, and even swim with wild animals. Public contact with captive wildlife for "entertainment" is detrimental to animal welfare and a threat to public health and safety.
The suffering begins early, when baby tigers, lions and bears are pulled from their mothers shortly after birth, to be used for photo ops and close encounters. Deprived of proper nutrition and maternal care, the young animals are subjected to stressful conditions associated with transport, excessive handling by the public, and abusive treatment by handlers. This weakens their immune systems and leaves them susceptible to serious diseases.
Once the animals are too old or too large be handled, sometimes after just a few months, they are discarded. They end up in roadside zoos, pseudo-sanctuaries, or in private menageries unable to humanely care for them - only to be replaced with more babies recklessly bred for these types of businesses. Animals such as black bears and African lions may even be slaughtered for the exotic meat market. Smaller monkeys, such as capuchins, may be subjected to mistreatment for their entire 30-plus year lifespan. Some animals are fortunate enough to be relocated to real sanctuaries, like PAWS, which then take on the responsibility of providing costly lifelong care for them.
The public is endangered when coming into close contact with bears, big cats and nonhuman primates, through risk of injury and the transmission of bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. Children especially are at risk.
You can help stop this cruel and dangerous exploitation of wild animals by submitting your comments to the USDA today.
It's easy to submit your comments. Visit the USDA Federal eRulemaking Portal. Click on the "Comment Now!" button on the right-hand side of the page. Complete the required information, enter your comments, and then click on the "Submit" button. (If the link does not work, go to www.Regulations.gov and cut and paste APHIS-2012-0107-0002 into the search box. Then follow the same directions.)
Sample comments are provided below, but please personalize your comments as much as possible.
Re: Support for USDA Docket No. APHIS2012-0107
To Whom It May Concern,
As a citizen who is deeply concerned with animal welfare and public safety, I urge the USDA to amend the Animal Welfare Act regulations to prohibit the public handling of bears, big cats and nonhuman primates, regardless of the animal's age. This practice is unsafe for the public, harmful to the animals, and feeds the exotic pet trade.
Animal-interaction businesses teach nothing about the natural lives of animals and they do not promote conservation. In fact, they harm true conservation efforts, promote the ownership of exotic pets, and may even contribute to the illegal wildlife trade.
Please take action to ban public contact and close encounters with bears, big cats and nonhuman primates.
PAWS appreciates your support on this important matter.
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