Monday, July 16, 2007

New Lousiana regulations ban big cats as pets

LDWF bans importation, housing of exotic cats — except Mike the Tiger

July 14, 2007

If you're thinking of importing a Bengal tiger to house in your back yard to keep roving bands of thieves away, you might want to think again.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries recently added big exotic cats to the list of Potentially Dangerous Quadrupeds and Non-Human Primates, making it illegal to import, possess, purchase or sell a big exotic cat within the state of Louisiana.

As a matter of record, the act covers tigers, lions, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars or mountain lions and all subspecies and hybrids of those respective cats.

Better stick to importing that wild-eyed tabby from the local animal shelter.

"We included big exotic cats to the list as mandated by the State Legislature," said Maria Davidson, LDWF large carnivore program manager, in a news release. "Public safety and the animals' welfare were our main priorities in developing the rules that will govern all big exotic cat ownership in Louisiana."

The good news is that if you possessed an exotic big cat by Aug. 15, 2006, and you can prove ownership, you can keep your stripped kitty under the following extensive conditions:

- If you already have an exotic cat, additional ones cannot be acquired by any means including breeding.

- Individuals must apply for and receive an annual permit from LDWF.

- Permitted exotic cats must be prevented from breeding by separate housing or sterilization.

- Permittee or designee must live on the premises.

- LDWF personnel must be allowed access to inspect the permitted big cat, facilities, equipment and records to ensure compliance with these regulations.

- A weapon capable of destroying the animal and a long range delivery method for chemical immobilization must be kept on the premises at all times. Additionally, the applicant must provide a signed statement from a licensed veterinarian identifying a designated veterinarian who will be on-call at all times to deliver chemical immobilization in the event of an escape.

- Clearly legible signs approved by LDWF shall be posted and displayed at each possible entrance onto the premises where the big cat is located.

- Each permitted big cat must be implanted with a microchip by or under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

- Each permitted big cat must remain in its enclosure on the property listed in the permit at all times and cannot be removed from the enclosure, except for proper medical emergencies under the direction of a licensed veterinarian.

- Permittee must notify the LDWF, the local sheriff's department and/or their local police department immediately if they discover that the permitted big cat is no longer in its enclosure.

- A permittee must notify the LDWF prior to any disposition of a permitted big cat, including transportation out of state. The LDWF reserves the right to supervise and accompany any such disposition.

- Permitted big cats must be kept in a sanitary and safe condition and may not be kept in a manner that results in the maltreatment or neglect of the big cat.

- Permittee must also comply with any and all applicable federal, other state or local law, rule, regulation, ordinance, permit or other permission.

Your exotic captive must be kept in an enclosure constructed of and covered on top with 9-gauge steel chain link fencing or something equivalent with tension bars and metal clamps.

If you're an accredited and certified zoo keeper, a research facility defined under the Animal Welfare Act or someone just transporting a big cat across from Mississippi to Texas, you're exempt from the rules.

Licensed circuses, with certain restrictions, are also allowed to house exotic cats. But circuses cannot include entertainment that involves wrestling, photography opportunities or an activity in which a cat and a circus visitor are in close contact with each other.

And LSU's Mike the Tiger is safe. Louisiana colleges or universities are allowed possession of a big cat if the species is traditionally kept by the college or university as a school mascot. But proper documentation that the college or university has consistently possessed a big exotic cat as its mascot over several years must be provided to LDWF.

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20070714/SPORTS06/307140007/1044/SPORTS060007/1044/SPORTS06

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