Please Don't Pet the Puma
Every year, both animals and members of the public are injured or killed because animal exhibitors allow visitors to pet and pose with lions, bears, tigers, primates, and other animals. The animal protection community has long urged a change in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations governing public contact. In August, USDA—which is responsible for enforcing the AWA—published a petition it had received requesting that it amend the regulations to clearly prohibit public contact with big cats, primates, and bears, and also to prohibit the separation of baby animals from their mothers before they are weaned unless medically necessary. In comments to USDA, AWI supported the petition but also argued that the regulatory change should go further and prohibit public contact with ALL wild and exotic animals. Many other species are subjected to unwanted and unnecessary handling by nonprofessionals, which exposes animals and visitors alike to potential harm.