This month at Dade City’s Wild Things, for a fee of $200, guests can swim with a white tiger cub named “Remington.” Born in June, in a few weeks the tiger will be too large to safely (or legally) come into contact with the public. The State of Florida and the U.S. Department of Agriculture only allows the public to handle big cats between 8 and 12 weeks of age (under 8 weeks the animal’s immune system is still developing, and at 12 weeks the cub becomes a potentially dangerous juvenile).
Considering the brief window of time during which public contact with tiger cubs is legal, you might think that interacting with a baby tiger is truly the “once in a lifetime opportunity” that is advertised. But that’s not the reality at disreputable animal parks and roadside zoos in Florida. At Dade City’s Wild Things, there has been a steady stream of baby tigers. Before Remington, “Rocky” and “Thunder” were available to hold or get into a pool with, and at the start of 2013, the tiger cubs “Meg” and “Catness” and “Petra” were available for encounters with paying guests.
Animals to be used for photo ops or play sessions are often removed from the care of their mothers shortly after birth. When an animal grows too large to be handled, they may be abandoned in a cage or dumped at another exhibitor. In addition to being exploitive and cruel, these money-making schemes encourage the irresponsible breeding of tigers and other captive wildlife, and only worsen a nationwide crisis of unwanted exotic animals.
There is good news! The USDA has announced that it is considering a petition to amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit public contact with big cats, bears and primates, to protect public safety and animal welfare. Please submit a comment in support of the proposed ban.
To submit comments (before October 4), go to the Federal eRulemaking portal (copy and paste address): www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2012-0107, and then click on “Comment Now!”
Sample text (it’s best to use your own words):
“I support amending the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit public handling of big cats, bears, and primates, regardless of the animal’s age. Public contact puts animals at risk and endangers the public. Stopping these interactions would remove a financial incentive to breed tigers and other captive wildlife.”