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April 2, 2013

Nevada Voters Support Banning Exotic Pets by Three-to-One Margin

New Poll Shows Voters Statewide Favor Bill; Support Especially High in Rural Areas

  • Nevada is one of just six states with only minimal laws on the books regulating the ownership of exotic and dangerous wild animals.   Kathy Milani/The HSUS

A statewide survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research reveals Nevada voters, by more than a three-to-one margin, strongly support legislation to prohibit private citizens from acquiring exotic and dangerous wild animals, such as lions, tigers, bears, primates, wolves and crocodiles. Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, introduced SB 245, which would prohibit the keeping of dangerous wild animals as pets.

The poll found that 72 percent of Nevada voters favor such a law, while only 23 percent oppose it. Large majorities in all demographic groups, party affiliations and geographic regions of the state support the legislation. Support is especially strong (76 percent) in rural areas of the state outside of Clark and Washoe Counties.

Nevada voters, by wide margins, want their lawmakers to outlaw the keeping of dangerous wild animals as pets,” said Holly Haley, Nevada state director at The Humane Society of the United States. “Lax laws in Nevada have put public safety and animal welfare at risk, and it’s time for our state to join the rest of the nation in adopting common-sense policies to protect people and animals.”

Nevada is one of just six states with only minimal laws on the books regulating the ownership of these pets. Every state in the western half of the United States has stronger policies in this area.

Exotic and dangerous wild animals can cause death, inflict serious injury and spread deadly diseases. It is difficult, if not impossible, for individuals to meet the animals’ specialized needs in captivity. The most recent escape of two chimpanzees who rampaged through a Las Vegas neighborhood—and the subsequent shooting death of one of them— demonstrates that the average person is not properly equipped to own and care for these animals.

The survey also found by a six-to-one margin (78 to 13 percent), Nevada voters are more likely to agree that exotic pets pose a public safety risk and should only be kept by accredited facilities with experienced staff, than to say that owning these animals is a personal right that should not be regulated by the state. By a more than two-to-one margin (58 to 24 percent), voters would view their legislators more favorably if they vote for SB 245. Nearly two-thirds of voters, 64 percent, also said they think that SB 245 should specifically prohibit private ownership of all primates, such as chimpanzees, baboons, capuchins and other monkeys as pets.

Facts:

  • S.B. 245 will prohibit the future private possession of dangerous wild animals including big cats, bears, primates, wolves, alligators, crocodiles and some species of venomous snakes. Existing owners will be able to keep the animals they currently have, but acquisitions of additional dangerous wild animals will be prohibited. The legislation exempts accredited zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, research and educational facilities, casinos and circuses.
  • Since 1990, there have been more than 700 incidents involving captive big cats, bears and primates nationwide, resulting in 27 human deaths (including four children) and more than 550 injuries.
  • Wild animals retain their basic instincts, even if they are born in captivity and raised by humans. When the animals grow too large and difficult to handle, they are typically confined to small cages, passed from owner to owner, or simply turned loose—endangering the community and native wildlife.

The poll of 625 statewide Nevada voters was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. from March 27 through 28, 2013. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent. The full survey results can be found here.

Media Contact: Raul Arce-Contreras : 301.721.6475; rcontreras@humanesociety.org

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