Legislature hears testimony on Kansas bill for big cats

TOPEKA, Kansas – Lawmakers in Topeka talked about a bill that would allow the public to touch or hold certain wild animals.

The bill, approved by the senate, is now being debated in a house committee.

“Let us do, what we do best. Let us strengthen the connection between people and an actual world,” said Tanganyika Wildlife Park assistant director, Matt Fouts.

For Fouts, engaging and educating the public is what Tanganyika Wildlife Park is all about.

“We can make more of a difference by taking the animal and showing them the animal then just telling them the facts about the animal or even showing them a picture,” Fouts said.

That’s why he testified in support of a bill in Topeka that would allow the public to have contact with some wild animals, like baby tigers and lions, that weigh up to 40 pounds with direct supervision. Others, like Rolling Hills Zoo executive director, Robert Jenkins in Salina, are against the bill.

“It fosters the wrong impression that you can take these, what are essentially wild animals, and they can be in captivity all you want, they’re still wild animals. They still have all those instincts,” said Jenkins.

He’s concerned about the possible risks.

“They bite, they scratch, they engage in behaviors that we pose in our opinion, a threat to the public when they’re engaged in it,” Jenkins said.

Fouts though, maintains that with proper supervision with trained handler, the experience can be a very valuable educational experience.

“I know that it can have an impact and I know that it can make a difference. I see zoo’s doing it around the country,” Fouts said.

Fouts said both sides testified in Topeka today, saying legislatures may vote on it tomorrow.

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