Friday, March 8, 2013

$5 for Bear Cub Photos; We’ll Throw in the Salmonella for Free

My state lawmakers are like nasty little children who've been inadvertently locked in a candy shop and can’t resist the urge to not only steal candy but leave wrappers strewn around, break glass jars and counter tops, spit on the floor and urinate in the display cases. They don’t care about others or about the future – they’re all about ME and NOW.

There are exceptions, of course. Some of the more mature legislators – those with foresight and consciences – are trying to block the delinquents, return the candy, straighten up the counter tops and pick up the garbage and broken glass. But they’re outnumbered, unfortunately. There’s too much candy being stolen, too many mistakes being made at once. And to make matters worse, the police and passersby outside are just like the miscreants – they all share the same selfish, ill-advised, illogical opinions – so there’s no one to listen to those who object to the terrible behavior, no one to put a stop to it, to end the trashing of the once-beautiful store before it’s too late.

Except, hopefully, the electorate.

The latest unruly behavior relates to Senate Bill 48, a proposal to amend the Large Carnivore Act to allow people to handle, pet and photograph black bears up to nine months old or weighing up to 90 pounds at roadside attractions masquerading as accredited zoos. The Republican-controlled state House of Representatives approved the bill 56 to 52 yesterday; it now goes back to the state Senate (which approved the bill last month) as a formality and then to Governor Rick Snyder (R), who’s expected to sign it into law.

According to the Associated Press, “the legislature passed a similar bill last session, but it was vetoed by Snyder. It had been tied to another bill Snyder had concerns about, but he encouraged the Legislature to re-introduce this bill on its own this session.”

For the actual text of the legislation, click here.

It doesn’t matter that the Michigan Humane Society and real zoos like Potter Park in Lansing, Binder Park in Battle Creek, John Ball in Grand Rapids and the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak have all communicated their strong opposition to the legislation. All that matters to the misguided, unscrupulous GOP politicians and their supporters who currently control all three branches of state government is that a single facility, the Oswald Bear Ranch – which is located in the Upper Peninsula and which raises money by letting tourists hold and pose for photos with real live bear cubs – insists that Senate Bill 48 is good economic policy, especially for a struggling area like Newberry where the roadside petting zoo is located.

Experts know that bears of any size and age can pose a significant threat to humans. But expertise means about as much as science and logic to politicians who put public health at risk in order to satisfy a single constituent.

In the words of the Michigan Humane Society, “We believe strongly that raising baby bears in captivity and using them for profit is wrong, and sends the wrong message about safety around bears. Qualified wildlife rehabilitators do not put baby bears on display or allow for the petting of the animals. We should not weaken our laws just to allow these roadside zoos to profit by exploiting these animals.”

Displaying an astonishing level of compassion and professionalism, Dean Oswald, owner of the Oswald Bear Ranch, told, “You take a young puppy dog, he'll nip at you, but you slap him and he won't nip any more. Bear cubs are the same way. At three months, they might nip, but by four months we have them pretty well calmed down. They put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces."

That’s what I want to do – pay $5 to hold an 80-pound wild animal with sharp claws and teeth while it’s slapped by an untrained petting zoo employee until it submits to my picture-taking. I wonder how many folks will smile if they suffer bites and scratches or catch roundworm, rabies, tuberculosis, salmonella, leptospirosis or another disease.

I sure hope voters are paying attention and will send these judgment-challenged twits packing the first chance they get. If making Michigan a “right to work” state (read: sticking it to unions), limiting public assistance, cutting business taxes, making it tougher to recall state officials, ignoring the will of the people who voted down the state’s anti-democratic emergency manager law or further restricting the right of women to control their own bodies aren't enough to send folks running to the polls, maybe this latest example of myopia and idiocy will be.

Michigan used to be such a cool candy store.

In the interest of full disclosure, the Potter Park Zoological Society is a client of Singh & Diehl LLC.

Sources:, Michigan, the Center for Michigan,, Michigan Humane Society.


  1. This is very sad news!

  2. Petting zoos are fine for domesticated animals like goats, horses, and surgically altered skunks. I cannot envision bears and other potentially dangerous animals being available for "photo-ops". Seeing as how the Lansing suits have shredded the state's economy and left rural hucksters with a new source of income tells me that 1) they have no knowledge of how nature works, 2) they don't care, 3) they haven't cared for years. Considering how bad the housing market is; with my parents unable to sell their house in affluent Farmington Hills, the state Rebuplicans, who are all about money, should focus on resolving current cash drains instead of opening new circus shows.