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WWF calls for ban on pet tigers

Ohio tragedy underscores need for national ban on privately owned tigers

WASHINGTON, DC, October 20, 2011 – The tragic situation in Ohio has prompted World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to call for a ban on private ownership of tigers. There are more tigers in captivity in the United States (an estimated 5,000) than there are in the wild (as few as 3,200). The vast majority of captive tigers in the U.S. reside in private hands, not in accredited zoos or circuses, which are well regulated.

Lack of regulation of tiger ownership in the U.S. results in inability to track how many tigers are being bred or born each year, how many die (naturally or otherwise), or what happens to tigers or their parts when the animals or their owners die. This is clear by the shock of local authorities when they were confronted with 18 unregistered tigers roaming free in the Ohio countryside and were forced to use lethal force for public safety. By making such private ownership illegal, tragedies like the one outside of Zanesville, OH can be averted in the future. 

WWF has been engaged in efforts to improve the regulation of captive tigers in the United States for years. Without a comprehensive, federally regulated system in place, tigers in the U.S. can become an easy target for sale on the multimillion dollar international black market for tiger parts and can stimulate demand for tiger products. This further threatens wild populations by putting them at increased risk of poaching. 

“The tragedy in Ohio was a public safety nightmare and highlights the urgent need for a ban on privately owned tigers in this country,” said Leigh Henry, Senior Policy Advisor for Species Conservation.  “In addition to safety issues, captive tiger populations can have a direct effect on the demand for illegal tiger parts around the world, resulting in increased poaching. We have a responsibility to close these loopholes, protect the public and save one of the most magnificent species on the planet.”

 WWF is calling for:

  • a ban on private ownership of tigers in the U.S. 
  • the U.S. Department of Agriculture to require all people and facilities with existing USDA licenses for exhibition or breeding/dealing in tigers to report annually on the number of tigers held, births, mortality, transfer, or sale. This information should be kept in a distinct database and made available for public review.

Key facts:

  • 26 states have laws banning the possession of tigers in private collections and other states need to match that commitment to protect people and animals
  • 8 states don’t have any laws at all on tigers: Alabama, Idaho, Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin
  • 16 states allow for the keeping of tigers by individuals, but require a state permit or registration