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May 21, 2012

The HSUS Urges Pennsylvania Senate to Immediately Ban Private Ownership of Exotic Pets

In the wake of an undercover investigation revealing that an Oklahoma roadside zoo with ties to Pennsylvania is allowing children to interact with dangerous predators, The Humane Society of the United States is urging the state Senate to quickly pass H.B. 1398, the exotic pet bill, sponsored by Rep. Edward Staback, D-Lackawanna/Wayne. The bill would ban the private possession of dangerous exotic animals, including lions, tigers, bears, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, leopards, cougars, cheetahs, jaguars and primates.

Under current Pennsylvania law, it is legal to keep dangerous wild animals as pets provided one purchases a permit from the Pennsylvania Game Commission to keep that animal. There is no requirement that the holder of that permit notify neighbors, local law enforcement or schools that the animal is being kept, and there is very little regulatory oversight.

The HSUS recently released the results of an undercover investigation into GW Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla., which revealed unwarranted breeding, tiger deaths and dangerous incidents involving paying customers and their children. The HSUS investigator witnessed or heard reports about numerous dangerous public interactions at the facility—some with a nearly full-grown tiger—including at least six cases where visitors were bitten or scratched. The facility regularly takes tigers across state lines to shopping malls and other venues for photo opportunities with the public. In 2008, GW Exotics shipped two 11-week-old tiger cubs to the Genesis Wildlife Center in NayAug Park in Scranton, Pa.—a year before Genesis closed down.

“The tigers from GW Exotics may now be living in a Pennsylvania backyard,” said Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania state director for The HSUS. “We should not wait until another tragedy occurs before adopting strict standards in the law. Pennsylvania’s lawmakers should act swiftly to pass this bill to protect residents and prevent animals from suffering in backyards and basements.”

In 2009 Kelly Ann Waltz was attacked and killed by her pet bear in Ross Township. Waltz also held a permit allowing her to keep a Bengal tiger and an African lion. The bear was kept in a 15-foot by 15-foot steel and concrete enclosure and was shot by a neighbor after the attack. This tragic encounter illustrates that often deadly consequences occur when wild animals are kept as pets.

In neighboring Ohio lawmakers are poised this week to pass legislation to ban private citizens from acquiring dangerous wild animals as pets.

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Media Contact: Raul Arce-Contreras, 301.721.6440, rcontreras@humanesociety.org

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