Tag: leopards

Ban On Big Cat Pets Heads To Biden’s Desk

All that awaits is a stroke of President Joe Biden’s pen.

The Big Cat Safety Act was passed by the US Senate this week, clearing its last legislative hurdle. The law would ban the “ownership” of big cats as pets and would end their exploitation by roadside zoo operators, while also outlawing big cat breeding by private parties.

It’s a bipartisan effort that gained steam after years of efforts by animal rights organizations and documentaries like Netflix’s infamous Tiger King, which showed millions of viewers how the majestic felids are kept in cruel conditions and chained to an endless breeding treadmill to provide a constant supply of cubs. Those cubs are taken away from their mothers shortly after birth and used as props in lucrative “selfie with a tiger” offerings at unaccredited roadside zoos.

Private “ownership” of big cats has been a contentious issue and an embarrassment for American animal rights activists, particularly because almost all big cat species are critically endangered. There are more tigers living in backyards in Texas and Florida, for example, than there are living in the wild in the entire world.

Breeding for conservation is a process that involves careful planning by experts at accredited zoos and sanctuaries. Because there are so few big cats left, with some subspecies down to just a few hundred living animals, mates must be carefully chosen to avoid genetic bottlenecks and to ensure healthy and viable breeding populations in the future. As private breeders and roadside zoos breed the animals without regard to subspecies or genetic diversity, they do not contribute to species conservation in any meaningful way and can do harm with indiscriminate matches, conservationists say.

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Credit: Pexels

While the bill outlaws private ownership, it still allows sanctuaries, zoos and universities to keep big cats in regulated facilities that meet their physical and psychological needs. It also permits programs like the statewide puma project in California, which has been tracking the elusive felines for more than two decades and involves occasional sedation and temporary custody so the team can provide veterinary care.

“An extraordinarily cruel era for big cats in the U.S. finally comes to an end with the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act,” said Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society of the United States. “We’ve been fighting for this moment for years because so many so-called ‘Tiger Kings’ have been breeding tigers and other big cats to use them for profit. And once the cubs grow too large for cub-petting or selfies, these poor animals get dumped at roadside zoos or passed into the pet trade, which is not only a terrible wrong for the animals, but also a threat to public safety. Now that the Big Cat Public Safety Act will become law, it’s the beginning of the end of the big cat crisis in the U.S.”

The Big Cat Safety Act cleared congress in mid summer, and its passage in the senate means it will get to Biden’s desk with several weeks to go in the current legislative session. Biden is expected to sign it without delay.

“For me, this fight for the big cats was never personal,” said Carole Baskin of Florida sanctuary Big Cat Rescue. “This was always about developing a national policy to shut down the trade in these animals as props in commercial cub handling operations and as pets in people’s backyards and basements.”

The new law does nothing for big cats currently in captivity, unfortunately. Current “owners” will be grandfathered in, although they won’t be able to replace their “pets” legally, as breeding and purchasing the animals will be illegal. The last “pet” members of the panthera genus in the US will die out within the next two or three decades, assuming no major outliers in lifespan.

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As felines who can purr but not roar, mountain lions are not technically “big cats,” but they’ll also be protected under the new law. Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

Sunday Cats: Larry Welcomes A New Servant To No. 10 Downing, More Cats Rescued From Ukraine

Larry the Cat, official mouser in chief at 10 Downing Street, is now on his fifth prime minister.

After the disastrous and short-lived tenure of his predecessor, Lizz Truss, new PM Rishi Sunak officially moved into the UK prime minister’s residence earlier this week — and walked right past Larry without acknowledging him:

Note the reporter doing a live broadcast, which you can hear in the background.

“He is arriving now…the new prime minister of the United Kingdom!” the reporter said as Larry padded his way down the sidewalk and stopped.

Failing to acknowledge the true power at No. 10 is an ill portend for Sunak and the UK. What kind of person doesn’t greet his boss on his first official day of work? Larry will get him sorted in short time, undoubtedly.

Big and small cats from Ukraine find homes in Poland and the US

During the opening phase of the Ukraine war, there was an Indian national webcasting from Donbas, constantly asking for money to keep his “pet jaguars” — actually leopards — safe from the advancing Russians.

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It was one of the most infuriating aspects of the young war. The guy was keeping the big cats in an apartment, referred to them as his “children” despite not even knowing their species or how to care for them, and he lied to his audience, claiming he’d purchased them from the Kyiv Zoo. He didn’t. Zoos don’t sell big cats to people. He got them on the illegal wildlife market.

I don’t know if those particular leopards are among the big cats rescued from Kyiv in recent weeks, but a new report says illegally kept pets are among the felids who were rescued from Kyiv and Odessa — two of the hardest-hit cities — and brought to sanctuaries in Poland.

That’s good news. Hopefully any remaining wild animals are taken out of the hands of private owners and put in sanctuaries where they belong. Big cats don’t belong in a war zone, and they don’t belong in private hands.

Meanwhile, Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in Washington, D.C., has house cats from Ukraine up for adoption.

Most of the little ones were rescued from warn-torn areas in the eastern part of the country, and the rest were moved from a Ukrainian shelter just in time, as the building was hit by Russian missiles shortly after the animals were cleared out. Some of the cats were found wandering amid the ruins and destruction in towns and villages that had been hit hard by the invading Russians, Homeward Trails’ Sue Bell told WTOP.

The US non-profit will continue to work with a shelter in Ukraine, which rescues cats from heavily impacted areas.

“Right now, Homeward Trails is the only organization taking cats from this new Ukraine shelter,” Bell said. “And so, for every cat that we took from the shelter, that not only gave that cat an opportunity for a home, but it created a space in that shelter for the team to go out there and bring more cats in.”

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A belated happy National Cat Day!

There are so many cat days, I lose track, so apologies for missing this one.

Happy National Cat Day to all PITB readers and your beautiful kitties! It’s a good excuse to spoil our little buddies and remind them how much we appreciate them.

Changes to PITB

You may have noticed, if you don’t have ad blockers installed on your browser, that I enabled ads in mid-September. I strongly dislike ads and I don’t like clutter on the site, but after three years of operating and publishing PITB, I decided to enable a limited number of ads in an effort to get PITB to pay for itself and hopefully a few upgrades that would be helpful in making the site more accessible, while also providing the tools to expand PITB’s content offerings.

Please send us your feedback. If you see an ad that covers the content, let me know. If you see an inappropriate ad, let me know. You should see ads for cat-related products and/or ads for things you may have expressed interest in before — due to the way ad networks use cookies and data from services you use, which is perfectly normal — but I want to make sure no one’s having a bad experience here.

Happy International Cat Day: The World Is A Better Place With Felines

Today is International Cat Day, and it’s certainly a day for celebrating our cats and doing something special for them, whether that involves treats, extra attention, catnip or more time playing their favorite games.

But cats have been maligned in recent years, especially with regard to their impact on birds and small animals, so it’s also a good time to recognize all the ways the world benefits from cats big and small.

Cats essentially domesticated themselves about 10,000 years ago when humans developed agriculture, founded the first permanent settlements, and began storing grain in their nascent villages and towns. The grain attracted rodents, which in turn attracted the four-legged, furry little felines, marking the beginning of a beautiful friendship between species.

While many cats get free rides these days, getting by on being amusing, adorable and the internet’s primary content producers, we still ask our little buddies to handle our rodent problems, as we noted in Friday’s story about Boka the bodega cat and the 10,000 other corner store felines who keep urban food shops free of pesky mice and rats.

Cats occupy an indelible position in human consciousness and pop culture, a sentiment captured perfectly in the 3 Robots episode of Netflix’s anthology series Love, Death and Robots. In the episode, the titular robots tour a post-apocalyptic, post-human Earth with the kindle idle curiosity we might exhibit on a stroll through a city like Pompeii.

“What’s the point of these things?” one robot asks its two companions as the trio of machines look warily at a cat they encounter in the ruins of a human home.

“Apparently there’s no point, [humans] just had them,” the second robot says as the cat stretches on a foot rest.

“Well, that’s underselling their influence,” the third robot says. “They had an entire network that was devoted to the dissemination of pictures of these things.”

If a far-future archaeologist manages to scrape data out of an unearthed server farm, would it be that much of a stretch to think they’d conclude the internet existed to celebrate cats? (Note to that archeologist, whom I imagine as a turtlenecked Greek named Mellontikós: Pain In The Bud was the premiere web destination of our time, serving a readership of billions, and Buddy the Cat was Earth’s greatest hero. Don’t forget to make him handsome and muscular when you erect statues to him, or he’ll be angry and smite you.)

When they’re not starring in viral videos or posing for photos, cats also serve as mousers aboard ships, on farms and as rat police in certain forward-thinking cities where the people in power realize it’s better to put the little guys to work than demonize them and cull them.

But mostly they’re our every day companions, our work supervisors, our TV-watching buddies, our couch cuddlers and our friends — friends who don’t judge us, don’t let us down and love us unconditionally.

While house cats aren’t endangered, we’re at a critical juncture now, one that will determine if future generations put their kids to bed promising to take them to zoos to see tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards and cheetahs, or if they’ll kiss their kids goodnight after explaining, sadly, that the majestic animals in their storybooks were extirpated from the Earth a long time ago along with elephants, orangutans, gorillas, whales and virtually every other example of charismatic, iconic megafauna.

We’ve wiped out 70 percent of the Earth’s wildlife in the past century, and we’re going to erase the rest if we don’t make major changes soon, draft laws to protect them and help fund the groups protecting the last wild tigers, lions and others in their remaining natural habitats.

The world is a better place with cats, and we’re lucky to have them. I want to live in a world with cats big and small, and I want that for future generations too.

Finally, Wild Cat ‘Ownership’ Could Be Banned Under The Big Cat Public Safety Act

There are more tigers living in cramped backyards in Texas than there are in the wild.

At roadside zoos, shady people like Joseph Maldonado-Passage, Joe “Exotic” of Tiger King fame, breed big cats like rabbits so they have an endless supply of cubs to steal from their mothers before they’re weaned, pumped full of sedatives, and handed off to tourists who take selfies with them but never stop to consider the welfare of those baby cats or the harm they’re enabling.

And in states like Florida, where “Muh freedoms!” reign supreme over all other values, people can own any wild animals they want, with no real oversight and no mechanisms to ensure they’re doing right by the animals. There’s nothing forcing “exotic” animal “owners” to keep the big cats, monkeys and other mammals in proper enclosures where they have stimulation and — just as importantly — won’t escape and hurt neighbors.

India the tiger Transported to BBR
India the tiger was still just a cub when he was spotted wandering through residential neighborhoods in Texas, where he’d been dumped by his former “owner.” Credit: Humane Society

Thankfully, things could change soon as lawmakers are expected to vote on the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a rare bipartisan effort that would finally make it illegal to keep tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, pumas and other wildcats privately, whether in homes, businesses or non-accredited “zoos.”

Currently keeping big cats is illegal or severely restricted in most states, but like many things in the US, there’s a confusing patchwork of laws and things that would be unthinkable in other states are perfectly acceptable in places like Texas and Florida.

Because, you know, “muh freedoms.”

Now is a good time to point out that this blog has always been, and will remain, politically agnostic. I have my own political beliefs as any other person does, but PITB is a cat humor, news and advocacy blog, and the only politics we discuss here are those that relate to animal welfare. Equally important, Buddy and I want people of all political persuasions to feel comfortable as readers and commenters on PITB. (Although that could change if one or both political parties suddenly makes a move against the nation’s Strategic Turkey Supply. Then Buddy’s gonna have to get biblical.)

The Big Cat Safety Act is co-sponsored in congress by representatives Mike Quickly, D-IL, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, and in the senate by senators Susan Collins, R-ME, Tom Carpenter, D-DE, Richard Burr, R-NC, and Richard Blumenthal, D-CT.

It’s endorsed by a wide range of groups, from the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums to the Humane Society and various bar associations. The proposed legislation also has the support of the White House, which released a statement this week urging its passage.

If your congressional representative or your senators aren’t publicly on board with the Big Cat Safety Act, you can make your voice heard via the Humane Society’s site, which allows you to draft and send letters to the offices of your lawmakers.

shallow focus photography of cheetah
Cheetahs, already critically endangered, have been almost entirely wiped out by poachers who sell their cubs on the illegal wildlife market. Credit: Magda Ehlers/Pexels

Bud’s Book Club: The Man-Eaters of Kumaon & The Game of Rat and Dragon

Welcome to the inaugural post of Buddy’s Book Club, where we’ll read stories about cats and stories involving cats!

We’re going to start things off easy with a classic short story of the cat canon, which is available for free online via Project Gutenberg, and a seminal book about big cats from a man whose name is indelibly linked with them.

The Game of Rat and Dragon (1954) by Cordwainer Smith

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Read it here for free from Project Gutenberg, a collaborative effort to create a digital archive of important cultural literary works that have fallen into the public domain. For those unfamiliar with Project Gutenberg, it’s completely above-board, legal and safe for your devices, and the story opens in plain HTML with illustrations included as image files. You can read the story in a browser or download it onto a reading device, tablet or phone.

The Game of Rat and Dragon first appeared, as so much short fiction of the era did, in a digest. Although Smith had penned it the year before, the story was published in Galaxy Science Fiction’s October 1955 issue and became an instant classic among cat-lovers and science fiction aficionados. (There is considerable overlap between the two, not surprisingly: Introverts whose imaginations run wild when they look to the stars tend to have many of the same personality traits as people who prefer the more sublime antics of cats.)

The Game of Rat and Dragon imagines a far future in which humanity has become a star-faring culture, meaning we’ve conquered interstellar flight and have begun to colonize planets in star systems other than our own.

There is, of course, a problem. The dark, lonely void between stars isn’t as empty as we thought it was, and is inhabited by invisible (to the human eye), inscrutable, inexorable entities eventually dubbed “dragons.”

When dragons attack they leave only death and insanity in their wake, putting the entire idea of interstellar travel at risk. Imagine if there was a not-insignificant chance of your passenger jet being attacked by impervious creatures every time you hopped on a plane. It wouldn’t be long before the entire air industry collapsed and the world suddenly became a much bigger place, with other continents unreachable by air.

Who can help humans with this problem? Cats, of course! To say more would be to spoil the fun. Meow!

Man-Eaters of Kumaon (1944) by Jim Corbett

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Available as an ebook for 99 cents from Barnes and Noble.

Jim Corbett was a sportsman, the son of a government official in the British Raj who was raised in India’s jungles and came to know them intimately. He’s best remembered as the fearless hunter who finally brought down the infamous Champawat tigress, who officially claimed 436 lives over a years-long rampage as a man-eater, and likely many more that went unrecorded.

To understand the gravity of Corbett’s accomplishments, it’s necessary to understand the effect of a man-eater on rural India. The people living in India’s tiny villages are subsistence farmers. If they don’t farm, they don’t eat.

But when a man-eater as dangerous as the Champawat tigress claims an area as its hunting grounds, everything grinds to a halt: Farmers refuse to tend their fields, villagers disappear behind locked doors, and a simple walk to a neighboring village becomes an impossibility unless escorted by a group of two dozen or more armed men. Even then it’s a risk, for as Corbett notes, when tigers become man-eaters they have no fear of humans and will kill people in broad daylight, even when they’re in groups.

And yet for all their power and predatory instincts, tigers are never deliberately cruel and don’t harm humans willingly. Tigers become man-eaters by unfortunate circumstance, usually due to negligence or stupidity on the part of humans.

The Champawat tigress, for example, was like any other big cat until a human hunter took aim and shot her in the mouth, destroying one lower canine completely and shattering another. The tiger could no longer take down her usual prey, or at least not without serious difficulty. At some point — perhaps after encountering the body of a person it did not kill — the tigress realized she could survive on human flesh.

If that hadn’t happened, those 436-plus souls wouldn’t have been lost, an entire region wouldn’t have been brought to its knees, and the tigress would have continued life as normal.

The vast majority of the time, tigers are content to let humans be.

“I think of the tens of thousands of men, women and children who, while working in the forests or cutting grass or collecting dry sticks, pass day after day close to where tigers are lying up and who, when they return safely to their homes, do not even know that they have been under the observation of this so called ‘cruel’ and ‘bloodthirsty’ animal,” Corbett writes.

Despite his reputation as the man to enlist when a man-eater terrorized a region, Corbett saw the way things were trending a century ago, and begged people to let the big cats live undisturbed.

“A tiger is a large-hearted gentleman with boundless courage,” he wrote, “and that when he is exterminated — as exterminated he will be unless public opinion rallies to his support — India will be the poorer by having lost the finest of her fauna.”

Corbett would undoubtedly be deeply disturbed by the situation today, with only some 4,000 wild tigers remaining in the entire world, and the glorious species mostly reduced to spending life in captivity, constantly sedated so that idiots can pay to take selfies with them.

The Man-Eaters of Kumaon follows Corbett on 10 hunts of man-eating tigers and leopards. It’s also a story of life in the British Raj, rural life in India, Corbett’s jungle adventures, his love for his loyal hunting dog and his turn toward conservation.

Schedule:

We can do the short story in a week, yeah? Let’s shoot for one week for The Game of Rat and Dragon, and two weeks for The Man-Eaters of Kumaon. We’ll adjourn and discuss in follow-up posts. Happy reading!