H.R. 1006, S. 269

An enormous "Thank You" to Senators Jim Jeffords (I-VT), John Ensign (R-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Gordon Smith (R-OR), and to Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) for their efforts in getting this very important legislation passed.

The Captive Wildlife Safety Act, H.R. 1006, passed the House Committee on Resources in July, after Tippi and others testified in Washington in favor of the bill at a committee hearing on June 12. It passed the full House on November 19, 2003. As S. 269, it UNANIMOUSLY passed the Senate on October 31, 2003. And it was signed into LAW on December 19, 2003 by President George W. Bush!!!

By Wayne Pacelle is a senior vice president at The Humane Society of the United States, www.hsus.org.

For those people who don't think one person can make a difference, I offer just two words to disprove the theory: Tippi Hedren.
Just one week after the tragic death of a 10-year-old North Carolina boy who was mauled by his aunt's 400-pound pet tiger, President George W. Bush on December 19th signed into law the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, a new federal law to outlaw the interstate transport of big cats for the pet trade. Tippi played a critical role in its introduction and final enactment, and at phase in between. It's a measure that should dramatically combat the alarmingly widespread problem of private citizens keeping the great cats in backyards, basements, and even closets.
It was little more than a year ago and a half ago that Tippi and I agreed to spearhead a federal legislative campaign to crack down on the trade in big cats for use as pets. With 30 years of experience in dealing with big cats and the people that have owned them, Tippi was just the ambassador the big cats needed on Capitol Hill. From her first-hand experiences, she could provide chilling details about why keeping big cats as pets is inhumane for the animals and dangerous for people.
Tippi has been much beloved on Capitol Hill for years, and is well-known as both an actor and animal advocate. She's been calling for the adoption of public policies on this issue for years, and together we developed a strategy to complete the task in 2003.
One crucial step was enlisting her own Congressman, Buck McKeon (RCA), to introduce the Captive Wildlife Safety Act in the House along with Rep. George Miller (D-CA), a long-time animal advocate from northern California. On one of her many lobbying visits to Washington, D.C., Tippi asked Rep. McKeon to introduce the bill, and I was a witness to the fact that she's a hard person to turn down. At the same time, we enlisted two outstanding pro-animal Senators, James Jeffords (I-VT) and John Ensign (R-NV), to introduce the companion legislation in the Senate, and we were off and running.
Tippi and I worked closely with these legislators at every turn, and they all did a fantastic job in advocating for the bill and moving it through the process. No meeting was more important that the one we had with Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the powerful chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who promised Tippi that he'd help to get the legislation passed.
And at every turn, it seemed like there was another serious big cat incident that was capturing headlines, whether it was 400-pound Ming languishing in a Harlem kitchen or the 600-pound Montecore who severely injured legendary Las Vegas performer Roy Horn. Each incident underscored the practical importance of enacting the legislation, and the insanity of keeping these powerful and dangerous animals as pets.
In June, Tippi testified before the House Resources Committee, and captivated the members of the committee. At the hearing, she gained commitments from Representatives Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Elton Gallegly (RCA) to help to move the legislation. She also spoke to House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (RCA), who also agreed to support the bill.
In the fall, both committees had approved the legislation, and we were awaiting final action on the floors of the House and Senate. In the end, lawmakers responded to the pleas and demands of animal welfare groups to crack down on the interstate trade in big cats. Both the House and Senate passed the legislation without dissent, even though some exotic animal owners claimed it was their right to possess any animal they wanted.
While the passage of this legislation is precedent-setting, our work is far from complete. We must ensure that the new federal law is enforced, and we have to redouble our efforts at the state level to ban keeping dangerous exotic animals as pets. Only 19 states ban keeping big cats as pets, and it is estimated that there are 15,000 big cats in private hands in the United States – most being kept as pets.
The Humane Society of the United States, with the indispensable cooperation of the Roar Foundation and other like-minded organizations, will work to establish bans in the states that have no prohibition on keeping big carnivores as pets. Among them is North Carolina where the latest tiger tragedy occurred.
As the exotic pet trade is criminalized, we hope to see people turn to domestic dogs and cats as pets and turn away from exotic wildlife as pets. If this occurs, fewer tigers and other big cats will be dumped on the struggling network of overwhelmed sanctuaries. While Tippi's Shambala Preserve has set the highest standards for humane care of abandoned big cats, many other so-called "sanctuaries" are little better than miserable roadside zoos. There simply are not enough reputable sanctuaries to house the animal refugees discarded by the pet trade.
Thanks also go to all animal advocates who wrote letters and made phone calls to urge Congress to act and pass this long-overdue federal legislation. When we work in unison, as we did in this circumstance, we can achieve results that save lives. And thanks especially to Tippi for her wonderful leadership and commitment.
©2013 The Roar Foundation - Photos © Bill Dow
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The Roar Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.
Shambala is a member of the American Sanctuary Association.