USDA warns against private ownership of exotic cats

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Citing reasons of human safety and animal health, the USDA-APHIS in a new position statement explains its opposition to private ownership of large wild and exotic cats by untrained individuals.

In a brochure released in February and published by APHIS's Animal Care program, the agency says that only qualified professionals should keep such dangerous animals as lions, tigers, and cougars, even if they are only to be pets.

Large Wild and Exotic Cats Make Dangerous PetsThe Animal Care staff is responsible for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, which includes regulating and inspecting exhibiters of wild and exotic animals.

Animal Care personnel "have seen too many instances where wild and exotic cats kept by untrained people have not only harmed people but have suffered themselves due to poor care," according to the brochure.

In most cases, the average person lacks the knowledge and experience to handle such an animal safely. Some owners take their cats to public places, such as schools, parks, and shopping malls, sometimes with disastrous results.

Also, the average person does not have the experience or equipment to properly care for the animals, being unable to provide for their containment, medical care, husbandry, and nutrition. Some owners request unnecessary medical procedures to make their cats more suitable pets, although declawed or defanged animals are still dangerous.

Unwanted cats are difficult to place; most zoos are unwilling to take them, and few sanctuaries exist. Many of these cats end up being killed for their pelts and meat.

The AVMA strongly opposes the keeping of wild carnivore species of animals as pets.

APHIS's position statement is available at