Support SB 521 – Prohibit Private Ownership of Dangerous Wild Animals

As a result of the state’s weak laws, Pennsylvania has become a haven for exotic 405596_10150547873138718_143656653717_8827414_1097423857_nanimal owners. As was highlighted by the incident in Ohio where a disturbed man released 56 big cats, bears, primates, and wolves before committing suicide, the private ownership of dangerous wild animals all too often ends in tragedy. Even without such extreme examples, keeping tigers, bears, primates and other wild species in backyards and basements deprives the animals of all that is natural to them and presents significant public safety risks.
SB 521 would prohibit the private possession of big cats, bears, wolves, primates, and other dangerous wild animals as pets. The majority of states have already taken decisive action on the keeping of these animals and it is time that Pennsylvania follow suit.
Threat to animal welfare. Most individuals cannot provide appropriate and humane care for captive wild animals. 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. Experts, including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians oppose the private possession of exotic and wild animals as pets.
Threat to public safety. Dangerous wild animals retain their basic instincts, even if they are captive-born and hand-raised. Numerous Pennsylvania incidents demonstrate the hazards of allowing unqualified individuals and facilities to harbor exotic animals, such as the Saylorsburg woman who was killed by a pet bear and the Chanceford Township community endangered by an escaped pet cougar.
Threat to public health. Wild animals can spread deadly viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections to people, including rabies, tuberculosis, Herpes B virus, and Salmonella.
SB 521 would exempt accredited zoos and legitimate sanctuaries. Existing animals would be grandfathered so that people who currently have wild animals can keep them. In addition, the bill would strengthen the penalties for any person violating the provisions of the Act.