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Owning Tigers and Lions Would be Illegal in Missouri

February 8, 2005
By: Bente Birkeland
State Capital Bureau

In Missouri, back yard tigers may be a thing of the past. Bente (BEN teh) Birkeland has more from Jefferson City.

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A new bill would make it illegal for Missourians to own and breed lions, tigers, and bears. Representative Mike Sutherland, a Republican from Warrenton introduced the bill. He says he became aware of the issue because a man in his district owned roughly 80 tigers on three acres.

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"There could be a situation where a child gets injured by a lion or tiger that's not being cared for in a safe way."

Currently there is no state law regulating who owns these animals. Opponents of the bill say it punishes the whole breeding industry because of a few isolated incidents.

From the state Capitol, I'm Bente Birkeland.

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Right now, any adult in Missouri can own and breed lions and tigers, but not if one state legislator gets his way. Bente (BEN teh) Birkeland has more from Jefferson City.


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If it passes, the law would make it illegal for people to breed or own lions, tigers, and bears. Current owners would be grandfathered in, meaning the state wouldn't take their animals away unless they were violating federal guidelines.

Lynn Culver is a professional breeder who owns 45 large cats. She says she thinks the bill would wipe out the species in captivity.

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"We think because they kill things they must be mean and viscous, that's completely opposite. They're loving and sensitive, and they're beautiful."

Culver says she wants to educate people about the animals and uses them to bring people closer to nature.

Rep. Mike Sutherland, a Republican from Warrenton introduced the bill. He says he's more concerned about public safety than he is about the breeders.

From the state Capitol, I'm Bente Birkeland.

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People who breed lions and tigers say a new bill aimed at making it illegal, gives the animals and their owners a bad name.

Bente (BEN teh) Birkeland reports from Jefferson City.

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Breeders say they want the federal government to do a better job of monitoring how owners treat large cats. Right now, they say the laws are difficult to enforce. A new bill would make it illegal for anyone to own or breed lions, tigers, and bears.

Tom Chandler owns large cats on his 250 acre ranch. He says the bill goes too far.

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"Most owners of tigers are responsible people. They're not just a bunch of rifraf that want to put a tiger in the backyard and say look at me."

But a when a situation like that peaked Rep. Mike Sutherland's interest he decided to do something about it. Sutherland, a Republican from Warrenton is sponsoring the bill. He says he realized the state had a problem when he heard a man in his district kept roughly 80 tigers on 3 acres.

MU Vetrinary student Jessica Ward, says she's more worried about people than she is about tigers.

From the state Capitol, I'm Bente Birkeland