Laws governing animal ownership are swiftly changing across the country, affecting owners of all types of animals.  A proposed bill in Wisconsin, AB333. would change the laws relating to the possession of certain wild animals.

The captive wildlife law authorizes a city, village, town, or county to enact an ordinance that prohibits the possession of wild animals.

This bill generally prohibits the possession, propagation, and sale of dangerous exotic animals. Under the bill, dangerous exotic animals are nonnative big cats, including lions and tigers; nonnative bears, including brown bears and polar bears; apes, including gorillas, chimpanzees, and gibbons; and crocodilians, including alligators, crocodiles, and caimans. Certain entities are exempt from the prohibitions, including veterinarians, accredited zoos, municipal zoos, circuses, federally licensed research facilities, and wildlife sanctuaries. The bill authorizes a person who does not qualify for an exemption but who owns a dangerous exotic animal when the bill takes effect to continue to possess the animal if the person registers the animal with the municipality in which the person keeps the animal.

The bill prohibits a person from allowing a member of the public to come into direct contact with a dangerous exotic animal and requires the owner of a dangerous exotic animal to inform local law enforcement if the animal escapes. The bill also authorizes a city, village, town, or county to enact an ordinance relating to dangerous exotic animals if the ordinance is at least as strict as the provisions in the bill relating to dangerous exotic animals.

The Feline Conservation Federation (FCF),  a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to conserve wild felines through preservation, education and research, submitted comments and proposed amendments because of its concern about the unintended consequences of the amended law including:

AB 333, as written, has the potential to create new public safety concerns by removing regulatory oversight from wildlife sanctuaries. Furthermore, prohibitions on direct contact with impacted species held by all organizations will reduce animal care options, adversely impacting animal welfare.

This bill as written will result in negative impact on and the possible eventual closure of federally licensed businesses, elimination of conservation and education programs, and it will cause economic consequences that have yet to be meaningfully calculated.

According to FCF the bill was proposed just after a news story about a lion in Milwaukee, which turned out to be fabricated.

The fear instilled by this falsehood was conveniently timed in the context of this proposed legislation, and it has made meaningful dialogue about this sensitive issue even more challenging. It would be a disturbing precedent if such impactful legislation is conceived and enacted based on a fabricated crisis.

To learn more about FCF visit this website.