Lion Habitat owner says exotic animal bill is misguided
State lawmakers are addressing a pressing question after the escape of two chimpanzees from a Las Vegas home last July. Should people be allowed to keep exotic or wild animals in their homes? Critics say the recent push-back to stop it, is going tooPhoto: Video by ktnv.com
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- State lawmakers are addressing a pressing question after the escape of two chimpanzees from a Las Vegas home last July: Should people be allowed to keep exotic or wild animals in their homes? Critics say the recent push-back to stop it, is going too far.
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources passed a bill Thursday, that would give counties control over exotic pet ownership regulations. It could potentially ban the ownership of a slew of animals defined as dangerous.
At the Lion Habitat Ranch, you can get up-close and personal with the "King of the Jungle". But the ranch - located near St. Rose Parkway and Bermuda Road, in Henderson - is far from any jungle.
There are 40 lions on the property, making it the largest collection of wild cats, in the state of Nevada. Owner Keith Evans, offers tours, and supplies the animals to casinos.
Evans has been caring for lions in Las Vegas since 1975. His wild cats are all descendants of the first lions that were on display at the MGM Grand Habitat.
Evans invested millions of dollars in the Lion Habitat Ranch, and it's safeguards - like 19-foot cages, thick perimeter walls, and security cameras. He says it costs about a million dollars a year, to make sure the lions are properly fed and cared for.
That's why Evans takes offense with state lawmakers trying to crack down on his livelihood.
"The bills they're trying to pass gives no accreditation to people who actually know what they're doing," he says. "They're creating a false impression that everybody in the state is illegally and inadequately taking care of exotic animals."
Evans agrees that industry standards should be set, but he says owners who are doing everything right, shouldn't be penalized.
"There needs to be standards, but the fact that it's for public safety is a bunch of bull," he says.
Many people point to the escape of two chimpanzees from a Las Vegas backyard last summer, as an example of what can go wrong. But Evans believes current attempts at regulation after that incident, aren't confronting the real problem.
"None of these bills they're proposing do anything to address people coming in from another state, doing a job, having a cat get loose, injuring somebody, and then getting away before anyone knows what happened," he says.
That's why Evans, and some other licensed exotic pet owners, want to sit down with county leaders and state officials. They would like to help come up with a bill, or set of regulations, that would go after the people caring for these animals improperly.
Evans says the bill should incorporate rules on property ownership, cage requirements, trainer guidelines, and travel beyond state lines.