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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Kermit backs exotic pet crackdown
Kermit the frog and Tippi Hedren
Campaigning: Kermit the frog and actress Tippi Hedren
Kermit the Frog has teamed up with Hollywood legend Tippi Hedren to back proposed legislation in the US to regulate the sale, breeding and possession of wild animals.

The Muppet superstar was flanked by Hedren, her daughter Melanie Griffith and fellow actress Bo Derek, who have all been mauled by lions.

Thousands of exotic animals are kept as pets in the States, but campaigners say many are kept in cruel conditions.

Hedren said there were nearly as many "pet" tigers as the estimated 7,500 left in the wild worldwide.
Melanie Griffith
Melanie Griffith was mauled by a lion
The celebrities were at a news conference to promote a bill being championed by California Representative Tom Lantos.

His bill would require the owners of exotic mammals to get a licence from the Agriculture Department and show that they have the facilities and capability to keep the animals safely and humanely.

"All too often, wild animals are kept as pets under conditions that do not assure the safety of people nearby or that are cruel to animals," said Lantos.

Hedren, the star of Alfred Hitchcock's classic film The Birds, runs a refuge called Shambala Preserve in California for wild animals and the bill will be named after the refuge.

Exotic 'pets' crusade

The 62-year-old said the first lion she "adopted" in the 1970s had been living with a California doctor who could no longer handle the big cat. Soon after adopting the lion, many more abandoned "pets" were dropped off at her refuge.

"Many accidents have happened by having wild animals as pets," said Hedren. "I believe that anyone taking in a wild animal as a pet is making a very grave error," she added.
Bo Derek
Bo Derek was attacked during a film shoot
Earlier this month, a four-year-old boy in Houston, Texas, had his arm reattached after it was bitten off by his uncle's pet Bengal tiger in a high-profile case.

Griffith, 42, revealed she was attacked by a lioness on a film set when she was 19. She had to have 50 stitches on her face and thought at the time she had lost an eye.

"I knew these cats and they knew me and it was a friendly thing. But if people are allowed to have these wild animals in their homes and they don't know how to deal with them, they will get much more than a scratch," she said.

Bo Derek, 43, famous for her screen goddess role in the movie 10, was attacked by a lion while filming Tarzan, the Ape Man in the sea. She said a huge wave saved her from more serious injury.

Kermit, the only celebrity backer not to have been mauled by a lion, said he did not want to appear as "just another talking frog" from Capitol Hill.

"We need to pass this bill to prevent the continuing abuse and cruelty toward exotic animals in this country," he said.

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21 Mar 00 | Entertainment
Goldie's circus elephant ban call
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