The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates there to be between 5,000 and 7,000 tigers in the United States, even though they’re endemic to Eurasia, not North America. Meanwhile, tigers are endangered, and there are only around 1,500 to 3,500 remaining in the wild. That’s right, there are more tigers living in American’s backyards than exist in the wild because a lofty 95 percent of big cats – which include lions, leopards, bobcats, and lynxes, in addition to tigers – aren’t found at the nation’s public zoos, but instead are privately owned. And sadder still, Federal and state laws that govern how these big cats must be treated and cared for are extremely lax. As a result, their well-being isn’t often a huge priority for their owners, and a recent incident in Elbert County, Colorado is just the latest in a string of events that shows how true this unfortunately is.

Lions Gate, formerly known as Prairie Winds, used to house 11 wild animals and called itself an animal sanctuary. The owners said that flooding issues on their property left these animals in unsafe conditions, so they requested that the animals be moved to another property within the same county. The Elbert County Board of Commissioners felt the proposed plans were “rudimentary at best” and included moving the animals to a more populated area, which was very concerning. They decided that more detailed plans would be needed to approve the move and so denied the request.

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Afterward, the Lions Gate owners claimed to have tried to find new homes for the animals but found other sanctuaries didn’t want them because the animals were mostly older in age. However, Pat Craig, the founder and executive director of Colorado’s largest animal refuge, The Wildlife Sanctuary in Keenesberg, says that simply isn’t true. “In this specific case with Lion’s Gate, they have so few animals, they would easily be able to place every animal with another wildlife sanctuary. I can guarantee you that a lot of organizations would be glad to help,” Craig said.

The Wildcat Sanctuary in Minnesota agrees. They were never contacted by the Lions Gate owners, even though they had rescued five big cats from Lions Gate in the past, had been “very vocal” in their active search for lions in need of placement or rescue, and are very open to taking in aging wildlife.

So, instead of doing a proper search through the obvious channels and allowing these animals a better life, Lions Gate opted to euthanize all 11 animals in its care. This is simply the worst outcome for these poor animals who deserved to exist in the wild.

These animals should never have been kept at Lions Gate in the first place, as captivity is torturous for these wild cats, and it’s all too easy for owners like these to get away with providing substandard care. It’s time we ban big cat ownership in the United States and focus on preserving these animals in the wild, where they belong.

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Image source: Owlleo/Shutterstock