In a victory for wildlife, South Carolina has officially passed a law that bans keeping dangerous wild animals as pets.
The new law, which was just signed by Governor Henry McMaster, will now ban the private possession of big cats, non-native bears and great apes.
“We applaud the provisions of this bill that prohibit the private ownership of dangerous wild animals such as tigers, bears and chimpanzees, which is critical for ensuring public safety and animal welfare. South Carolina’s lawmakers have taken a very important step forward in passing this law,” said Kim Kelly, South Carolina senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States.
Before this, South Carolina was one of just five states that have no statewide regulations regarding the private possession of dangerous wild animals, and it’s a big problem for both animals and us.
Not only does keeping wild and exotic animals as pets pose serious welfare concerns for them, it also poses a number of health and safety risks for us.
Due to their very nature, even if they were born in captivity and hand-raised, they still have their instincts and innate needs that can’t be provided for in most private settings. Sadly for these animals, many people take them on without fully understanding that, and are unable to provide them with the specialized care, housing, diets and socialization that they require to keep them both physically and psychologically healthy. While sellers are happy to pawn off adorable baby animals, those babies quickly become too difficult, destructive and dangerous to handle.
Some may be lucky enough to make their way to sanctuaries, but there isn’t room for all of them, and others may end up languishing in completely inappropriate situations.
As Care2′s Laura Goldman pointed out earlier this year when this legislation was introduced, there have also been a number of incidents in South Carolina involving dangerous wild animals who attacked people, that point to a need for far tougher restrictions on private possession of dangerous wild animals.
There are a couple unfortunate provisions: people who own exotic animals as of January 1, 2018 will be allowed to own them for the remainder of their lives. Additionally the law doesn’t include roadside zoos, but they will at least have to take additional measures to continue keeping them.
Hopefully the remaining four states, including Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin, will soon follow with legislation that will bring an end to people trying to keep dangerous wild animals as pets.
There’s also hope that this issue will be addressed on the federal level with legislation including the recently reintroduced Big Cat Public Safety Act, which will make it illegal to keep big cats as pets in the U.S.