One of the original reality shows on t.v. is COPS. From my perspective I always viewed it as more of a documentary than a show. I have loved this show since its inception all those many decades ago..and the theme song,,"Bad boys, bad boys.." As an adamant lover of all things science I enjoyed the very raw personal snapshots of people from all parts of the country, all parts of society, and all rungs on the ladder of economic status. Equally interesting are the miniature interviews of the police officers with their interests, motivations, and sense of duty.
Each episode follows these cops as they meet the trouble makers and presumed-innocent-until-proven-guilty criminals. All of us are equally guilty of being unable to look away from a car accident, the front page story of shame and embarrassment of our elected public officials, or the live minute-by-minute coverage of a man hunt. Its the undeniable curiosity to see others at their lowest and most vulnerable moment. Those cops were seasoned well-trained professionals who were never fazed by any odd, peculiar, or heinous act. Their profession had taught them to "not be surprised by much anymore."
I vividly remember the live news coverage of the zoo animals that were running free for the first time in their miserable chained lives through Zanesville Ohio after their 'keeper' set them loose and then killed himself. The untrained, bewildered police and public officials decided it would be safer for the public if the newly released wild animals were destroyed. In the end over 50 lions, tigers, leopards, bears, and others were shot and killed. As I watched the nightmare of that day unfold I secretly prayed that it would end differently than I suspected it would. Yet another animal asked to live in an environment beneath its dignity, beauty, and failed not once by being captured and placed in a home far inferior to their particular narrow needs, never overseen by an informed or caring society, and then foolishly set loose to be shot. I wasn't surprised at all that it ended the way it did, but I was deeply saddened that any of this way allowed to happen. It wasn't safe for the families that lived in the area surrounded the home of Terry Thompson, nor was it fair to those big cats, bears, and mammals.
This massacre fueled a change in the laws in Ohio. "Before the fall of 2012, Ohio's state government did not restrict wildlife possession or require registration of wild animals. Pets owned by private citizens are not regulated under the federal Animal Welfare Act, under which the U.S. Department of Agriculture governs care and treatment of certain animals sold, used in research, transported, for commercial purposes, or exhibited in public."
The state knows of 360 privately held animals who have permits. The process for getting a permit and the requirements that owners must provide are likely the reasons why the number is so drastically low.
In the fall of 2012 Ohio passed a law that now requires all wild animals be housed adequately, receive appropriate veterinary care, be microchipped, and they must buy liability insurance or surety bonds.
Just like those cops I am not surprised that the great State of Ohio reacted the way that they did, nor am I surprised that the repercussions of the new laws are as they are.
The result of the new laws.
- Difficulty finding a vet to help these animals.
- Difficulty, if not impossible to acquire insurance for housing a wild animal.
- These animals are being driven underground and hidden. the cost for that? dreadful living conditions.
- If those animals need help, they do not get it because their owners fear the penalties for not properly permitting them.
Owners of these animals have testified in court that the expense to legalize the ownership would run in the area of $100,000. To make matters worse no zoos will take these animals and the few sanctuaries that do exist are unable to take all of those that request re-homing.
To date, there are still 6 states that have no laws in effect for owning big cats.
My fear is that we still have not learned the lessons we needed to from Zanesville. How many more massacres have to happen? Is it going to take the death of a child? The outbreak of a disease? Or the horror of the living conditions to become headline news before we shame others into caring more about our planets largest and most magnificent land mammals?
I don't know, but I am damned tired of not being surprised by any of it.
This story was based on an article in the July 15, 2013 edition of JAVMA.