Congress Should Forgo Haley's Act, Increase Funding for USDA Instead, Says Feline Conservation Federation

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The FCF urges Congress to increase the USDA budget so that it has the manpower it needs to properly inspect facilities and punish those that violate regulations and place the public in danger.

The Feline Conservation Federation (FCF), the nation's oldest organization insuring against the extinction of all 36 species of wildcat through careful captive breeding and habitat protection asks Congress to forego Haley's Act at this time and instead increase funding for the USDA so that agency can better focus on enforcing existing regulations.

"Haley's Act will not address the real issue and concern of insuring animal welfare and protecting the public," said Lynn Culver, President of the FCF. "We are deeply concerned with public safety and the general public should never be exposed to any danger."

Culver adds, "Haley's Act, however, is not promoting the welfare of Great Cats nor does it truly do anything to further shield the public from illegitimate owners or wildcat handlers who are breaking existing laws."

The Feline Conservation Federation would have preferred to see a much stiffer penalty imposed on Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary, including jail time to its owners so the USDA can get its message across that breaking existing regulations that forbid direct contact with adult, large carnivores is a serious violation of current regulations.

The FCF would also like to see the USDA rules and regulations followed by all owners of Great Cats regardless if they are a licensed USDA facility or not. "This helps to ensure everyone is following the same set of standards and rules," said Evelyn Shaw, Director of Legal Affairs for the FCF.

The United States Department of Agriculture regulations restrict public contact with the young of Great Cats to an age window of 2 to 4 months. Handlers must be qualified and of sufficient numbers to insure public safety. Regulations prohibit young animals from becoming overly stressed by excessive handling by the public.

FCF supports USDA regulations that address the use of Great Cats to help spread their message of empathy and conservation. Culver said, "Young of Great Cats are compelling ambassadors for their cousins in the wild. They raise awareness of the importance of protecting wildlife and wild places."

Culver believes it is the ability to touch such incredibly beautiful and intelligent young felines that fills our hearts with love for nature and motivates us to value and protect it. "Professionals should not loose this important tool for gaining public attention because of a completely unrelated and willful defiance of safety regulations by a chronic violator," says Culver.

The Feline Conservation Federation urges Congress boost funding to USDA so they can increase inspections and the prosecution of those who are habitual offenders.

"This bill is a great irony because Haley clearly loved tigers," says Culver, "We cannot honor Haley's memory by attacking the very thing she loved and punishing every responsible conservation educator and potentially every citizen in America."

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LYNN CULVER
Feline Conservation Federation
(479) 394-5235
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