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Monday, April 17, 2006

 

Skip the tiger photo op


Amanuensis' friend Ted sent a copy of his heartfelt reminiscence about the late country singer Buck Owens. One of Owens' most famous songs is I've Got a Tiger by the Tail. More appropriate to today's post, though, is probably the flip side of that 1965 record, Cryin' Time.

Oh it's cryin' time again
You're gonna leave me
I can see that far away look in your eyes
I can tell by the way you hold me darlin'
That it won't be before it's cryin' time

I'm learning more than I ever wanted to know about the exploitation of big cats. First there was the grim tale of Tango the Tiger, executed after he killed his keeper. Tango was starving!

In today's follow-up, the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Kevin Giles reports on the Fad of taking photos with tiger cubs. Unscrupulous humans breed tigers so that they can go round to malls and fairs with the cubs, charging money for kids to be photographed with the cubs. But when the cubs grow up, they're discarded; "sometimes sold for as little as $200 at garage sales and truck stops," Giles writes.

"You have this continuing influx of tigers that have no place to go," said Tom Solin, a private investigator of wildcat injuries and deaths, who thinks the popular and lucrative photo fad explains the source of so many tigers.

Sadly, Minnesota has a law that was intended to put the brakes on the sale of big cats and required "owners" to register their big cats, but it's largely ignored. The woman killed by Tango, Cyntha Gamble, was one of those who failed to register her tigers.

Giles also adds some details that contradict what was previously reported about Gamble's operation. Contrary to earlier reports, she'd been responsible for animal abuse back in 2003:
In 2003, answering a complaint of animal neglect, Pine County deputies found a tiger dead in a freezer and starving wildcats on Gamble's property, said Chief Deputy Steve Ovick. She had hired a caretaker to tend to the animals while she was in Oregon, he said. "He left the cats with no food, no nothing," Ovick said.
Furthermore, the USDA, which licenses animal exhibitors like Gamble, had inspected her property just weeks before Gamble's death. We know that the three tigers on Gamble's property were starving, but apparently the USDA did nothing.

Giles persists in calling Gamble a "victim" and also quotes others who are worried about the proliferation of dangerous wild animals and the possibilities of harm. A kid who gets too close to a wild animal and gets bitten--or worse--is a victim. A human who keeps wild cats and deliberately starves them is not a victim. She's a criminal.

If you run across some cute tiger cubs at your local mall or county fair, do not shell out for a photo.

Oh it's cryin' time again
You're gonna leave me
I can see that far away look in your eyes
I can tell by the way you hold me darlin'
That it won't be before it's cryin' time
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