The Humane Society of the United States presents Indiana state Rep. David Abbott, R-Rome City, with the Indiana 2020 Legislator of the Year Award for his efforts to help animals in Indiana and beyond by authoring House Bill 1200 to end the private possession of and direct contact with dangerous wild animals in Indiana.

The Indiana House Natural Resources Committee considered the legislation last year but did not vote on it. Despite the bill being unsuccessful last year, Rep. Abbott is committed to re-working the bill and this session he authored House Bill 1398: The Cub Protection Act, which would prohibit direct contact with big cats and bears.

“Hoosiers have good reason to be proud that Rep. David Abbott is leading efforts to help protect the public from dangerous encounters and animals suffering in roadside zoos by authoring legislation to address these concerns,” said Samantha Morton, Indiana state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We are pleased to honor him with this award and thank him for his persistence and leadership.”

Indiana has had a troubling past of allowing people to interact with dangerous wild animals, especially big cats. Wildlife in Need is an example of an unqualified facility that harbored large numbers of big cats and bears and used these animals for public contact. The Indiana Attorney General’s Office shut down the facility and found six lions, 16 tigers, seven tiger-lion hybrids, six cougars, two leopards and three bears housed at the location.

Morton notes that there is simply no safe or humane way to allow for public handling of bears and big cats of any age.

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