Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Keep Big Cats Wild and Your Family Safe: Pass Haley’s Act

One year ago 17-year old Haley Hilderbrand went to a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) licensed facility in Kansas to have her senior picture taken with two tiger cubs. Just before the shoot, a 550-pound Siberian tiger was substituted for the cubs. During the photo shoot, Haley was tragically attacked and killed by the tiger and the tiger was then shot. Unfortunately, attacks by big cats are not rare or isolated, nor are USDA licensed facilities that allow direct contact between these dangerous wild animals and the public. More recently, a four year old boy was scratched by a tiger while he sat in an adjacent cage during a photo shoot with a kangaroo. The tiger reached through the bars and sliced the child's head. There are more than 10,000 big cats in captivity in the U.S., many of whom are in facilities licensed by the USDA. Although this license might seem reassuring, the harsh reality is that a USDA-licensed facility can be anything from a fenced-in backyard to a roadside zoo. The USDA lacks authority when it comes to public safety. Not only is the public at risk, but many USDA facilities barely meet the minimum welfare conditions for big cats who are forced to live a life behind cages and in chains. Thankfully, there is now an effort underway to improve conditions for these wild animals and protect the public from big cat attacks. Congressman Jim Ryun (KS) has just introduced "Haley's Act" (HR 5909). Named in honor of Haley Hilderbrand, Haley's Act is a necessary bill that will give the USDA the authority it needs to prohibit direct contact between the public and big cats. Haley's law will also significantly increase penalties for violations of the animal welfare act.
1. Please email your Federal Congressperson and urge him or her to become a cosponsor of Haley's Act by Congressman Jim Ryun (R, KS). Simply fill in your details below and send the email. Personalised letters are more effective than form letters, so please take a moment to add your own comments to the email. Please also call your Congressperson (phone calls are even more effective than emails). To find your senator's phone number, go to http://www.congress.org/. Simply call and say: "Hi my name is…and I live at… I am calling to urge Congressman/woman…to cosponsor Haley's Act, H.R. 5909 by Congressman Jim Ryun. This bill will give the USDA the ability to prohibit direct contact between the public and big cats such as lions and tigers at USDA licensed facilities. Can you let me know if he/she is willing to do this?"

2. After making your call and sending an email, please pass this alert on to as many people as you know, and urge them to contact their members of congress as well.

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