I’m writing regarding your cover story on Joe Taft and his rescue for big cats, titled “His Wild Kingdom” [May 19]. While I’m always happy to hear about the prospect of organizations dedicated to making lives better for those creatures our society deems disposable, I was shocked to read that “despite the abuse he’s seen, Taft believes some people can handle them as pets.”
I find this mentality to be incredibly irresponsible and deluded. Apparently, despite all of his research and experience, Taft has turned a blind eye to the glaringly obvious fact that life in a cage, albeit an enclosure with natural habitat, cannot compare to the miles of territory these big cats would normally roam, the social interactions they normally experience, and the experiences of life in the wild, that while we as humans may view as hardships, big cats are none-the-less genetically hardwired to experience.
Taft admits he can’t take all the cats he gets calls about and that many are euthanized, yet he condones keeping them as pets? Where does he think people (who view themselves as able to handle big cats as pets of course) will acquire their pet? Does a facility like his do “adoptions”? Or will they support some sleazy exotic-animal breeder, further adding to the problem?
While Taft’s fascination for big cats is understandable, and his ability to use his past mistakes and experiences to establish something positive like a decent rescue (according to the USDA) is admirable, his inability to admit keeping a big cat as a pet is just plain wrong and reflects a selfish desire with little regard for the welfare of the very animals he claims to love.
While the poodle or the shih tzu appear almost alien to their ancestor the wolf, domestic cats are virtually identical to their wild ancestors and cousins, except they are smaller and already domesticated. Millions of healthy, friendly, gorgeous cats die in shelters each year because there just simply aren’t enough homes. Why in the world would anyone encourage the ignorant to seek out large wild animals, completely unsuitable for life in captivity? If someone has a burning desire to prove something by dominating a wild animal, they need therapy, not a pet.