Originally Published in: The Dallas Morning News
Published on: August 20, 2022
Written By: Shelby Bobosky
Tigers are not pets or props, but many Texans treat them as such. Just recently, Dallas police found and seized a tiger cub caged in an Oak Cliff backyard while serving a warrant. It’s not as uncommon as it may seem. Texas has one of the highest populations of big cats in the country with numerous instances where these animals have escaped and injured or even killed people in our state.
In the first 90 days of 2021 alone, four privately owned big cats escaped their enclosures and roamed loose in Texas cities. During Hurricane Harvey, there were reports of wild animals wandering neighborhoods as their enclosures had been destroyed and local law enforcement didn’t have the tools to tranquilize and capture them humanely. First responders should not have to apprehend 300-pound predatory big cats. Those animals shouldn’t be kept as “household pets” in the first place.
Big cats in community settings are an ongoing threat to pets and children. These animals cannot be domesticated, and the requirements for properly maintaining them are simply beyond the capabilities of the average person. Without proper laws in place, we will see more tragedies.
The Texas Humane Legislation Network has advocated against the private ownership of wild animals, including big cats, since 2001 by helping to enact the Dangerous Wild Animal Act. The act has made a significant impact on public safety, but more can be done. Due to deficiencies in the current patchwork of municipal and state regulation, there is a pressing need to enact a federal law.
Passing the Big Cat Public Safety Act would mean less risk to our first responders and safer communities for all of us. It would also end cruel cub petting operations and deny wildlife traffickers access to a pipeline of animals. Protecting these beautiful animals from cruelty is noble in and of itself while protecting Texans against the threat of backyard tigers is just plain common sense.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act has passed the U.S. House and is on to the Senate. We are asking for support from Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn in recognizing this very real threat and working to mitigate it — for the safety and well-being of Texans as well as big cats.
Shelby Bobosky is the executive director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.