Paws up

Should You Be Allowed to Own a Tiger? This 11-Year-Old is Telling Her Representatives 'No'

The Missouri City resident testified in Austin this week in favor of a bill prohibiting ownership of wild animals.

By Morgan Kinney April 5, 2019

Frannie Jospeh with Texas Sen. Charles Perry

Image: Anita Joseph

You might recall how, back in February, a pot-smoking woman stumbled into an abandoned Manchester home to light up, only to discover a tiger chilling out in a cage. The jokes wrote themselves; Jimmy Kimmel (unsuccessfully) tried to book the anonymous 311 caller as a guest, and animal control representatives nicknamed the animal Tyson, after The Hangover. Thankfully, Tyson was deemed in good health—albeit a little chubby—before he was immediately dispatched to a wildlife refuge near Dallas.

Now, a bill is winding its way through the Texas legislature to make private ownership of such "dangerous wild animals" illegal. Per the current bill, the law would pertain to baboons, bears, cheetahs, chimps, clouded leopards, cougars, gorillas, hyenas, jaguars, leopards, lions, macaques, orangutans, snow leopards, tigers, or “any hybrid or subspecies of an animal listed in this subdivision.” Violation of the potential law would be a Class A misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $2,000 per animal per day of violation.

Among the most vocal supporters? An 11-year-old Missouri City resident name Frannie Joseph. We recently interviewed Joseph about her successful run as a lemonade entrepreneur. To date, the animal lover has used her business and the attendant publicity to raise thousands for both the Humane Society of the United States and the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, the same wildlife refuge where Tyson landed.

Frannie testifies before the Texas Senate Water and Rural Affairs committee.

Image: Anita Joseph

The Houston tiger incident is part of what compelled Joseph to take off school and testify in Austin this week. In her comments before the Senate Water and Rural Affairs committee, she said she couldn't imagine a tiger living in one of the houses in her neighborhood. "When I talk to my friends at school, we all agreed that we like and respect tigers as wild animals but don’t think they make good pets," she said. "That is what dogs and cats are for." She urged lawmakers to support the bill so that these wild animals live among the necessary habitat and supervision.

Both her comments and the novelty of such a young commenter drew praise from Senate committee members, but there was also opposition, chiefly from lovers of macaque monkeys. The bill remains under consideration in both the Senate (as SB 641) and the House (as HB 1268).

Joseph urged Texans to call or email their state representative to vote yes on the bills; you can find your state representatives here. Joseph's ongoing GoFundMe campaign benefitting the Black Beauty Ranch can be found here.

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