There are many private owners of tigers in this country. Some have the means and knowledge to care for them, some do not. In many states tiger owners get a federal exhibitor’s license to avoid state and local regulations which prohibit private individuals from owning a tiger as a pet. With the USDA Class C Exhibitors license, it is often easier to buy a tiger than to adopt a dog from a local shelter.
Owners, often well-intentioned and frequently misled by the breeders, acquire a cub a few weeks old and take it home. They believe that because the tiger was bottle-fed, its wild instincts have been tamed away.
The tiger is fully grown at 3 years old, and weighs 500 pounds. It is now a threat to its owner, his or her family and neighbors. Enclosures have to be enlarged and strengthened, and the cost to properly feed and provide medical care can be $7000 a year.
At this point if the owner is no longer willing or able to keep the tiger, there are few options. There are no shelters or adoption facilities as there are for domestic cats, and zoos won’t accept it because it is generic. The breeder or dealer will not take it back because it is dangerous, expensive, and not profitable. A few lucky tigers end up in one of the few good sanctuaries. The rest end up in roadside zoos or dead.
The incident in Zanesville, Ohio in October, 2011 is an example of what happens when private ownership goes wrong.