Why do Americans like to keep tigers as… pets?

The number of captive tigers in the US may be higher than the number of wild tigers worldwide. In states that have responded strongly to government intervention, such as Texas, no one knows exactly how many tigers are in captivity.
Some reports say that in the US, there are currently about 7,000 tigers living in zoos or kept as “pets”. Meanwhile, according to estimates, the number of wild tigers in the world is only about 3,890.

Keeping “toxic” pets is a controversial issue in the United States.

In some states like Texas, owning a pet – no matter what – is considered a personal freedom that the government should not interfere with.

Speaking about this issue, animal activist Ben Callison said he was criticized by some subjects after calling on the US Department of Agriculture to intervene in issues related to “poisonous” pets.

“People say I seek to take away their freedom to own what they want and do what they want” – Mr. Calission expressed.

However, many Texans want the government to intervene in the above issue for the safety of the community. The problem is that many “poisonous” pets in the US are not covered by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) – which only applies to animals caught in the wild. course. Meanwhile, the majority of tigers in the US originate from breeders.

Therefore, the regulatory burden falls on the states. Despite rising numbers, regulations are often ineffective, even in Texas, observers say.

“People want unique pets. There are many carnivores kept as pets across the country, including black bears, African lions, mountain lions. People also keep dangerous reptiles like crocodiles and poisonous snakes” – Mr. Nicole Paquette, Vice President of the wildlife protection organization Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), shared.

According to BBC, the state of Texas currently has about 2,000 – 5,000 tigers in captivity, most of which are unregistered. Notably, in the state of Texas, owning a tiger is easier than owning a dog that has been determined to be dangerous.

“Texas is a conservative state that values ​​individual freedoms and the right to own what you want…You can buy a tiger online, it’s crazy” – Ms. Pamela Boich, of the lobby group for animal welfare Texas Human Legislation Network, said.

In 2001, Texas passed a law requiring “venomous” pets to be registered after a pet tiger escaped and bit off a young man’s hand. However, law enforcement falls to the local governments of 254 counties, making it difficult to “hunt” unregistered tigers.

Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Health Services, said there are currently only about 50 tigers registered. This raises concerns about dangerous pets escaping, especially during natural disasters.

More worryingly, for tigers, the weather in Texas is often very pleasant – meaning they can live outside all year round without having to find a place to winter – Austin Zoo manager John Gramieri said.

In addition, Texas’ location is also very favorable for cross-border tiger trading activities with Mexico. Previously, animals smuggled in this border area were often birds and reptiles from Mexico. However, this trend has changed in recent years with mainly tigers and other cats being bred in the US and smuggled into Mexico.

According to research conducted by the Feline Conservation Federation (FCF) between 2011 and 2016, the number of big cats in the US decreased from 6,563 to 5,144 (a decrease of 22%). Meanwhile, the number of large cat breeding facilities also decreased by 24%, from 718 to 548.

Ms. Boich explained that this downward trend comes from “education” and “regulation.” “In my opinion, the younger generation is more educated on this issue and they do not support places that keep or breed big cats” – Ms. Boich said.

Now, animal activists are calling on officials to enact a federal ban on the breeding and ownership of dangerous animals.

However, even when the above ban was issued and law enforcement officials and other agencies seized illegally kept tigers, they still did not know what to do with them. Zoos and animal sanctuaries say they are “overwhelmed” by tigers.

Category: Pet