On the morning of October 19, 2011, Michigan’s legislators discussed proposed changes to the state’s Large Carnivore Act. Coincidentally, and unfortunately, news broke out of Ohio that 48 large mammals had escaped from an exotic animal preserve in Zanesville. Armed officers hunted down bears, tigers, lions, primates and other animals. Officers were ordered to shoot and kill rather than tranquilize. All but a few were killed.
This tragedy is a chilling example of what’s possible when dangerous, wild animals are kept by private individuals. Yet at this very moment, Senate Bill 210 and Senate Bill 1236 are on the floor and would significantly weaken Michigan’s Large Carnivore Act.
SB 210 would decrease restrictions on who could own large exotic carnivores in Michigan. Currently, the law prohibits private ownership and direct contact with large carnivores like bears and big cats, and only allows them in facilities accredited as a sanctuary or by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) such as Potter Park Zoo and Michigan’s four other AZA zoos. Privately owned collections (including those which are members of other exotic animal associations) do not undergo the rigorous review and inspections that are part of AZA accreditation, and they are not required to have the infrastructure, training or emergency preparedness necessary in dangerous animal escape situations.
SB 1236 would allow the public to come in direct contact with bear cubs up to 9 months old. The practice of handling and using bear cubs for photo opportunities threatens the safety of both the people and animals. Bears that are prematurely removed from their mothers are deprived of normal biological and behavioral development. By 9 months, black bears can weigh over 65 pounds and are capable of inflicting painful injuries. In Michigan alone, seven people have been injured – one fatally – by privately owned bears since 1990.
If they pass, SB 210 and SB 1236 would increase inhumane and dangerous situations in our state. There is no justification for amending and weakening Michigan’s Large Carnivore Act which has protected people and animals for over a decade.
Please contact your state representative
and ask them to vote NO on SB 210 and SB 1236.