Animal rescuer hopes popularity of Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’ brings about change for tigers in captivity

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – While animal lovers across the nation are voicing their outcry on social media over the treatment of exotic animals on the popular Netflix docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” a local animal rescuer told FOX40 that he’s grateful the popularity of the show is raising awareness.

Ed Stewart is president and co-founder of PAWS, the Performing Animal Welfare Society.

“You know, maybe an animal welfare show wouldn’t have gotten the ratings that this got,” said Stewart.

He has a 2,300-acre sanctuary in Calaveras County.

“It’s so quiet and it’s so respectful for the animals,” said Stewart.

Rescued exotic animals, including 14 tigers, are living out their lives there with room to roam, which is in stark contrast to some of the conditions in the southeastern U.S. depicted on the show.

“When you see somebody dragging a baby tiger under a rusty fence with a long stick, that visual upsets everybody,” said Stewart. “It’s an ugly industry and we’ve always wanted people to see that side. And now they’ve seen it and now it’s time to stop it.”

Stewart was instrumental in the passage of a 1984 law making it illegal to own exotic animals as pets in California.

He told FOX40 that he would like to see loopholes in that law closed and other states tighten up their regulations.

He said the breeding of tigers in captivity has become a huge problem.

“Way too many animals living in cages all around this country,” asserted Stewart. “So, if we can stop the problem, at some point it will go away. And if we stop breeding now, in 20 years the problem will be gone.”

Stewart said the filmmakers visited PAWS and interviewed him for the documentary. But after seeing the direction the show took, he views it as a positive sign PAWS was not included in the final cut.

“I’d like to see the day where you take down the cages and concentrate on saving habitat. That’s our main message here at PAWS,” said Stewart.

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