Last year, Tanganyika Wildlife Park made the decision to try and change the law that forbids all contact with species in the big cat family (i.e. all leopards, lions, cheetahs, tigers, jaguars, etc.). The bill was highly debated in the senate thanks to various animal rights groups scaring legislators by misrepresenting the bill and lying. The bill that ultimately passed the senate would give accredited zoological institutions the opportunity to offer full contact with cats under 10lbs (you could hold the baby with a trainer standing there), incidental contact with a cat under 40lb (you could pet it on the back), and remove clouded leopards from the list. In addition, it would allow us to use the cats in on-site and off-site programs as well as take them on the local news once more.
The bill, SB97, passed late in the session and there wasn’t time to get it through the House. So it sat in the House committee until March of this year. Once again, we testified before the committee with the support of written testimony from Jack Hanna and the Columbus Zoo, Nashville Zoo, and the Zoological Association of America (ZAA). There was the usual opposition from the animal rights groups and the families that were tragically impacted by full grown tigers, but we also had to take on the Sedgwick County Zoo, Rolling Hills Zoo, and Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Jim Fouts, Matt Fouts, and the executive directer of ZAA, Alan Smith, spent multiple days meeting with representatives in Topeka. Ultimately, a modified bill was passed through the committee. The new version limited incidental contact to cats 25lbs and under. Also, clouded leopards were added back to the list.
What was more amazing was the amount of support we received from our supporters. We asked everyone to call or email the representatives, and there was an overwhelming response… literally. They were receiving ten times more emails in support of SB97 than against. The truth and your support made all the difference in the world.
We can not express how touched we are by your support and can’t thank you enough for it. It has felt like us vs. the entire world at times. It has cost our family-owned facility tens of thousands of dollars. However, we knew that ensuring SB97 passed would help strengthen the connection between people and the baby cats, and that the emotional connection could have a significant impact in the stewardship of their species. At the same time preserving the intent of the original law, which is to prevent unprofessional, private ownership of big cats.
If you would like to learn more about this SB97, click the links below:
We will continue to keep you posted if there are any developments with the bill in the future! If you would like immediate updates, you can also subscribe to our legislative list by clicking here.