Newsday Tuesday – Hunting Big Cats in the US

It happens. People collect one or more exotic cats—tigers, leopards, and others—the cat gets out and bad things can happen—usually to the innocent cat.

A fifty-pound caracal escaped from a garage in the Detroit suburbs last week. In fact two of the four this family kept in cages that open up into their garage escaped. They lured one back with raw meat. The other one went on an unauthorized jaunt through city streets and even sauntered past an elementary school. As I understand it they caught up with the cat and returned him to his home. However, the woman who was harboring these cats received five citations and has been ordered to find the big cats a new home where they can be kept legally and safely. She had five days to comply.

There was a bizarre case of tigers on the loose here in our county in 2005. The owner who was harboring the tigers evidently released them and didn’t tell anyone. People caught sight of the big cats and reported this, however authorities were stymied because there had been no reports of anyone losing any tigers.

How many people actually keep exotic big cats on their property in the United States? It surprised me to learn the number is in the thousands. There are estimated to be between ten and twenty thousand big cats being held captive in this country. Are there laws and regulations when it comes to harboring exotic cats? This issue varies throughout the US. While some states outlaw this practice altogether, others have anywhere from no laws regarding big cats to some regulations.


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