AR Fanatic Falsifies Data
By Bart Culver
Carole Baskin (formerly Carole Lewis) has done an exhaustive key word search of news archives throughout the world for anything that might help her portray private ownership of exotic felines as unacceptably dangerous. In her own words she summarizes 400 news stories from the years 1990 to 2006 under the heading ‘Feline Attacks’. She claims it is only a partial listing of the highest profile cases that made the news. Then she claims to have used this data to generate a chart, which ‘shows the alarming increase in feline attacks’.
Newspaper accounts are notoriously unreliable data sets. Such data is worthless unless it is objectively reported, collected and analyzed by someone who is not a propagandist bent on deception. Analysis of Baskin’s work reveals that invalid data and deceitful methodology led to unwarranted conclusions.
Of 400 news stories, 140 came from other countries, where laws and customs differ from our own. They reflect conditions that do not affect us and cannot be addressed by US legislation. These stories are irrelevant to any proposed US legislation and were included only for sensationalism. Therefore we exclude them.
Of the 260 news reports from this country, 120 of them had nothing whatever to do with any attacks on anyone. They were every imaginable story with any mention of exotic cat species, i.e., animal welfare inspectors charging people with animal welfare violations, or confiscating cats without permits, zoos having to close for lack of interest, etc, etc. These stories are irrelevant to a study of feline attacks and should have been omitted. So we omit them.
Baskin was obviously eager to fatten up her database and scraped the bottom of the barrel. We note that all big cat attacks are high profile, because fear sells newspapers. Journalists never ignore these stories and neither does Baskin. Except for three.
1. A report from September 11, 1998, in the St Petersburg Times where a worker was mauled by a leopard at Baskin’s own facility and Baskin “was charged with 26 violations of the animal welfare act, including failure to provide veterinary care to animals in need, unsanitary water, unsafe storage of food, shoddy records, shabby housing for animals and trashy grounds.”
2. In August 1996, the St. Petersburg Times reported two cougars escaped from Baskin’s facility. As Carol stated in her defense, “These animals posed no danger to the public because they were pets”. And this proved to be the case.
3. In December 1997 the St. Petersburg Times reported a man who was bitten on the arm by a cougar on Baskin’s property was suing Baskin.
Having eliminated the irrelevant data we are left with 140 incidents in the US in 17 years, which resulted in injuries ranging from scratches up to 16 deaths. Plotting the results, we get a chart that looks nothing like the one presented by Baskin. As you can see, since 1995 there have only been 2 years when the incident rate was lower then it is now.
Baskin’s ‘alarming increase’ does not exist. It is a lie, concocted by padding 140 valid data points with 249 invalid ones. Baskin is hoping people will be too stupid to examine her data and simply accept her colorful chart with the picture of the snarling cat as the horrifying truth. This is not science; it is an insult to science and to your intelligence.
Baskin asserts that pet tigers kept in basements and backyards are an unacceptable danger to the public requiring us to eliminate the largest gene pool of tigers, the majority of tigers in the world. Again, her own data proves this is another lie. Of 16 deaths in 17 years, pet tigers caused 4; none of the victims were members of the public. The other 12 deaths are attributed to USDA licensed professionals.
Only two members of the public have been killed by captive felines in 17 years. The first death was a woman who climbed into a lion enclosure at the National Zoo in Washington DC in 1995. The second was a young woman who climbed on the back of a full-grown male tiger at a USDA facility to have her picture taken, in violation of USDA regulations. The other 15 deaths were trainers, handlers, keepers, staff, owners or their family or friends, voluntarily involved and not in public venues and not innocent bystanders.
Of 124 injuries in 17 years, 33 were inflicted by pets, involving three members of the public. The other 91 injuries happened at USDA licensed professional facilities and venues involving 20 members of the public. 36 of these were at zoos, many of which were AZA accredited, involving 11 members of the public.
There are about 450 tigers in US municipal zoos and Baskin claims there are 10,000 tigers in private hands. For the moment lets accept Baskin’s ludicrous claim that the USDA licensees are all closet pet owners – part of the private sector.
Zoos had 3 deaths per 450 cats.
The entire Baskin defined private sector had 13 deaths per 9,550 (10,000-450) cats
Private sector death rate = 13/9,550 = 1/734.6
Zoo death rate = 3/450 = 1/150 or Zoo/ private sector ratio = 4.897
Zoos had 36 injuries per 450 cats.
Private sector had 124 – 36 = 88 injuries per 9,550 cats.
Zoo rate – 1/12.5 private sector = 1/108.5 ratio =8.68
1. Zoo cats are 5 times more likely to kill you, and 9 times more likely to injure you then private sector cats.
2. Baskin’s claim of 10,000 tigers is a baseless fabrication. Let’s adopt conclusion 2 and look at this more directly. Let’s not suppose anything. What has actually happened to the public in the last 17 years?
|Deaths to the PUBLIC||Injuries to the PUBLIC|
There were 59 reports of escaped exotic cats in 17 years. 31 were pets; these were 6 tigers, one lion, five cougars, 3 bobcats, and 16 servals. Of these, one lion caused an injury. Three tigers escaped from circuses causing one injury. Five tigers escaped from sanctuaries. Four tigers, one lion, one ocelot, one caracal, and one cheetah escaped from zoos. One tiger caused an injury. Three tigers, one lion, one cougar, and one lynx escaped from other USDA facilities, the cougar caused one injury. All USDA licensed professionals combined had 27 cats escape causing 2 injuries, while pet owners had 31 escapes causing only one injury.
In 17 years in the US, escaped exotic cats have caused 2/124 = 1.6% of injuries and 0/16 = no deaths. Escaped pet exotics have caused 1/124 = 0.8% of all injuries, and no deaths. No harm has been done to members of the public by escaped exotics. Since pet owners have many times the number of cats that zoos and sanctuaries have, their escape record is clearly superior to both. Pet exotics also show fewer propensities for aggression when they do escape.
1. Pet exotic owners have a better safety record then professionals.
2. Baskin’s characterization of pet exotic felines as a threat to the public is totally unfounded and the opposite of the truth. It is a lie.
Comments: While any deaths and injuries are regrettable they can never been entirely eliminated. No matter how hard you try to make the world perfectly safe, you will never defeat the incredible capacity of some humans for self-destruction. Ten injuries and the one death at zoos, 3 pet injuries and 2 USDA injuries were entirely the fault of the victim. People broke and entered, climbed fences, ignored warnings, and climbed into cages, or stuck their hands into cages. You cannot make the world safe for daredevils and lunatics.
Anyway you slice it, pet ownership poses very little danger to the public compared to zoos. There are reasons for this:
1. A loving, one-on-one relationship is the best way to raise a calm, tractable animal of any species.
2. Pet owners do not invite the public to interact and demand that their cats perform on schedule. These are acts of dominance and big cats don’t always agree to be dominated by strangers of a physically inferior species.
Baskin is trying to hoodwink legislators because she is an animal rights fanatic. They want to outlaw all animal ownership. She is targeting pet owners first because they are least able to defend themselves. But zoos, farms, and domestic pets are on the agenda and hysteria is the tactic that has proved most effective. So we are confronting the absurdity of charlatans and hypocrites deliberately infecting our culture with irrational fear and loathing of animals in the name of animal welfare.
To put the danger of exotic feline husbandry into rational perspective we use death statistics. It is impossible to assess the relative severity of injuries, but all deaths are equally severe. All captive exotic cats combined have killed an average of 1 person per year in the US in the past 17 years.
In the same time period an average of over 20,000 people are attacked and killed by one species of animal every year in the United States. They have recently begun to run in packs, killing thousands of people solely for the pleasure of it. This animal is the most dangerous animal in the world - Homo sapiens.
It is clearly absurd to be afraid of being killed by captive felines when that danger is entirely avoidable and your chances of being killed by free roaming humans are 20,000 times greater and largely unavoidable.
The bottom line is this; big cats are not roaming your neighborhood looking for people to kill. Humans are. If you are still afraid that big cats will harm you or your children, simply make sure that you and your children stay away from the private property where the big cats are. Don’t break and enter, don’t climb the fence, don’t volunteer and you will be 100% safe from big cats.
Comments on deaths and injuries to children:
I do not include children of the owners or their friends as members of the public, when there is no public venue. This is in accord with court rulings. As an analogy, if a parent makes a minor child shingle the roof, the child on the roof is not a member of the public. The parent may be guilty of child endangerment; but has not subjected the public to danger. Child endangerment is a serious crime. Human services are the most powerful agencies in state government. They can, and have taken people’s children simply because they owned a cub of a large feline species.
If you wish to prevent all child endangerment by outlawing all potentially dangerous activity by anyone, then you will have to outlaw almost everything people do and you might as well just imprison the entire population preemptively.
Important note: This analysis was done on the good faith assumption that Baskin did not alter the material facts in the individual news reports. We have now made a disturbing discovery. Aside from her deceitful methodology, Baskin has laced the news reports with her own biased editorial remarks and has deceitfully described a number of USDA licensed facilities as pet owners. It is far more difficult to ferret out lies then it is to tell them, so we are not certain what percentage of Baskin’s data is falsified. We are certain that the only thing Baskin’s corrupted data proves conclusively is that Baskin is a liar.
Efforts to sway legislators with lies deserve to be punished as perjury. Certainly they should never be rewarded with success.
Bart Culver has over twenty years experience living with dozens of exotic felines. Contact him at Klandaga@yahoo.com
Copyright 2007 © Bart Culver & REXANO
Published January 2007