The time has come that I must ask for help from all those who have supported myself, my tigers and the efforts we make to both entertain and educate regarding my tigers' care, husbandry, training and the threats to survival their wild counterparts face. Domestically, we now face our own threat in the form of a bill in Congress, HB 3546, that would take away everything I love and hold dear.
Deceptively named the "Big Cat Public Safety Act," HB 3546 does NOTHING to protect the public from lions, tigers and big cats. Instead, it bans any breeding of these endangered animals except for those kept in an exclusive private membership club, thus limiting genetic diversity for future species survival. An estimated 75% of the captive American tiger gene pool resides outside of that trade organization. Restricting this available genetic resource is not beneficial to the growth and success of the species.
Although there is a "circus" exemption written in to temporarily allow us to continue to retain ownership of my animals and to travel, my tigers and I would effectively have our days numbered, threatened by an amendment at any time that would eliminate our exemption. The discriminatory language exempts zoos in the aforementioned private trade organization and "sanctuaries” (even though “sanctuaries” are not allowed to breed in order to be accredited.) All other owners and exhibitors of big cats, including myself, would be prevented from acquiring any new animals. My two younger girls, both named after my grandmothers, and my two boys would all never have had the opportunity to join us, and share their magnificence with tens of thousands of individuals across the country every year. They would be locked in cages at a stagnant location away from those who love and care for them or worse, they might never have been born.
The only "safety" accords included in this deceptively named bill prohibit contact by the public with a big cat. But contact with a tiger by a member of the public is already prohibited by the federal government unless it is of a certain age or below a maximum weight - normally ending around four months of age or 40 pounds. New York state passed a law in 2014 under the same pretenses, dubbing it the "Tiger Selfie Law." The extremist groups pushing the bill claimed young men were posting photos of themselves with dangerous predators on dating sites. Even if this were the case, it is already illegal under federal regulations. HB 3546 is being pushed claiming it solves the same non-existent problem.
Most of the discussion in this proposed Congressional bill involves the notion that privately owned big cats are a constant source of "body parts" for the illicit "black market" trade. There is little to zero evidence this is true. Some proponents of the bill claim as many as 20,000 tigers are in the possession of private owners. The true number of TOTAL tigers in America is approximately one fifth of that. The number of wild tigers in their native ranges mirrors that of the American population – making conservation work in the United States a sure-fire way to ensure these amazing animals will never disappear from our planet.
I often remind visitors that everyone exhibiting tigers to the public holds the same license from the federal government to do so - whether a big city zoo that charges an entry fee, a sanctuary that begs for funding via donations, a circus that charges an admission price to see a show, or a private individual like myself. The importance of nomenclature is mute. The care of the animals comes paramount to any political agendas. There are plenty of laws in place to protect captive animals. If existing laws are not being properly enforced, new laws punishing responsible caretakers are not the solution.
There is so much more below the surface of the political agendas that are pushing this bill. If you have other questions, please ask. What I ask of you is to take two minutes to contact your representatives and tell them you oppose HB 3546. The Cavalry Group has set up a very easy system to do so. Please, it takes less than two minutes of your time to make a difference in my life and the survival of an endangered species. Do not let government regulators and animal rights extremists force their ignorance and agendas on responsible exotic animal owners at the expense of the animals themselves and the species as a whole. Do NOT let them take my tigers away from me. Do NOT let these animals go extinct.
Contact your representative to oppose HB 3546: