Was Bobo Murdered?

I can answer that question with certainty…beyond any reasonable doubt…and regardless what either the cat’s owner or wildlife officials say.

But before I answer the question, let’s review:

A former actor, Steve Sipek, who once played “Tarzan” owned the six-year-old tiger, Bobo. Sipek also owns another tiger, a panther, a cougar and lions on a five-acre compound, according to the Associated Press.

Bobo escaped Sipek’s compound in Loxahatchee, Florida, sending wildlife officials scrambling to find him. A dozen wildlife trackers and sheriff’s deputies searched for more than 24 hours. Unfortunately, the cat was shot and killed on Tuesday, when officials say it lunged at an officer who was trying to help capture it.

”Murder is the word,” Sipek said. ”They murdered a poor helpless animal that only looked ferocious, as any tiger would, but Bobo had a heart of gold.”

Murder isn’t the word.

Bobo was not murdered. How do I know? No, I wasn’t there when he was shot. I didn’t see the shooting. I know because legally, only human beings can be murdered.

There are countless animal rights activists who take issue with this. I am an animal lover myself, so don’t blame me. I think people who intentionally mistreat animals should face the same mistreatment themselves. But even so, there is no such thing as the murder of an animal: the law simply does not recognize such a crime. Does that make you angry? If so, it means you love animals. Do you question why your local lawmakers aren’t?

There are several issues that are open for debate in this story. One of them is the issue of whether a private citizen should be allowed to own exotic animals to begin with.

An expert on animal behavior weighed in on the threat such an animal possesses: ”Tigers are wild animals and they retain hard-wired instincts and to say just because a tiger doesn’t have his claws – so what? He still has his teeth and they’re powerful,” Ron Tilson, conservation director at the Minnesota Zoo told the AP.

As an animal lover, I am glad to see that authorities are investigating Sipek’s claim that someone walked onto his property and open four separate gates which allowed the tiger to escape.

I also hope they’re looking into the next obvious question: How could someone who can afford a five-acre compound in Florida and the not-inexpensive maintenance of several exotic animals not have had some kind of security features — beyond a sign that reportedly says, “Trespassers will be eaten” — that prevented not only unauthorized people from opening the tiger’s cage, but also prevented them from getting anywhere near the cage at all?

If someone did let the tiger out through multiple gates, by the way, how was that person able to escape with the tiger on its trail?

It goes without saying that any animal, even a dog or cat, can be dangerous in the wrong set of circumstances. It seems logical to me that anyone who owns a 600 pound tiger, capable of doing far more serious damage, should have extra precautions in place to make sure such a thing doesn’t happen, no matter how big a heart of gold the animal is believed to have. There are some animals that man wasn’t meant to master.

It’s always easy to play “what if” games in a situation like this…but what if this gentle giant had mauled a child when it had gotten out? (The tiger apparently mauled a woman once before.)

Don’t get me wrong: I think tigers are hands down the most beautiful animal on the planet. But I also think that anyone who owns one has a duty to make sure the animal is never in a position to hurt anyone else or get hurt itself. One way or another, that happened this week, and it’s a tragedy no matter how it happened.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.