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By Scott Sullivan


Large Carnivores

Rejoice, Michiganians who want pets that can eat us. A bill introduced in the House last week would end the state’s ban on breeding large carnivores.

Lions, tigers and bears aren’t the only ones whose pitter-pitter of paws we may soon be hearing. HB 5778 would allow breeding leopards, jaguars, cougars, panthers and cheetahs too.

I cried foul here when Douglas amended its animal ordinance to allow backyard chickens but not roosters, turkeys, peacocks and other fowl. The City of the Village of Friendliness hosts protest marches almost weekly. Where are the “Roosters Have Rights Too” placards?

Now it’s Michigan’s turn to discriminate. Why allow breeding carnivores such as bears and big cats but not sharks, alligators, crocodiles, wolves, Venus flytraps, lobsters, parasitic worms and so on? Think how Jurassic Parks would boost tourism.

Pundits like me who enjoy some antics with semantics have as our hero a former Free World leader whom, asked is it true he had sex with a White House intern, replied, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

What is a “large carnivore”? Cast enough doubt on a question’s wording and your non-answer doesn’t matter. A Venus flytrap is “large” to a fly. Not all “carnivores” eat just meat; some, like us, are “omnivores.” My dog eats everything; names I call him when he does only need one syllable.

The Wolverine State, where there’s no evidence wolverines have set foot, bans discrimination by race, color, creed, age, weight, sex, sexual orientation, disability, on and on.

Yet bears are OK, birds not? Big cats that devour flesh fine but not reptiles, cannibals, fish, vegetation, space aliens and other life forms we’ve not yet discovered, like honest politicians? Trumpeter swans, for a local example, but not mute swans?

HB 5778 would roll back the state’s 2000 large carnivore breeding ban passed soon after a wolf hybrid killed a young girl. Who is for ending it? For one (OK, several) Association of Zoos and Aquarium members: mostly large institutions with means to fulfill the bill’s licensing standards. If passed, it would end their need to ship breeding of select large carnivores out of state.

Zoological Association of America members are less ecstatic. The newer, smaller group is largely made up of private zoo owners less able to meet HB 5778’s proposed costs and standards.

The thought of AZA vs. ZAA lawsuits makes my eyes glaze, but no more so than other litigation that keeps compounding. Should we ban breeding lawyers, dozens would sue I’m sure.

I was running on South Division Street in Grand Rapids (no, not from the law as is wont to happen there; more for exercise near my home then) when I stopped at a pop-up pet store and saw a liger. Owners told me the dad was a lion, the mom a tiger and it would outgrow both. There are also tigons (in this case a tiger’s the dad) but they didn’t have one. When I ran back the next week, the store was gone. Shops changed fast on that stretch.

So do laws and the whims of PACS that pay representatives to make them. Want to breed large carnivores on your own? Should the bill pass, you will have to apply through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. A newly-created Large Carnivore Breeding Advisory Committee will review it. Should MDARD and LCBAC say OK, you will have to ensure that the critters’ environment is clear from clutter, have written emergency protocols for injuries, house the animals at a temperature matching their native habitats, have a succession plan for possessing them and create a trained firearms team if law enforcement is not within a “reasonable distance.”

What is “reasonable”? Lawyers, start your engines on that one too.

Given Saugatuck city’s soon-to-change police status, I advise you wait before breeding ligers in your Butler Street shop.

County deputies cruise on occasion through Saugatuck Township’s more-open spaces, but it would be easier there to conceal such operations — regardless of whether the new bill passes. Be aware, though, trained firearm teams aren’t cheap and may need reinforcements should a member or two get eaten.

Douglas has the best of all worlds with its plans to retain a 24/7 police presence and backyard chickens. Should a grizzly get loose in the C of the V of D, clucking birds will alert the public unless they’re not first made into one-gulp McNuggets.

Given all this, I would pass on passing this bill. With evidence more black bears and cougars are moving south through our Michigan woods, why do we need zoo exhibits? As politicians proliferate, we’ll have more than our fill of beasts that eat everything in their way.