Let’s return to a time when the sponsor’s name was still built into the show’s title and kids across the land tuned in to watch Marlin Perkins’ weekly animal adventures on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Young Tim Harrison was one of the flock inspired by Perkins — and later, his undersea counterpart Jacques Cousteau. Among his unsparing accomplishments: without assistance, erstwhile Ohio police officer (and firefighter and paramedic) Harrison, an expert in the field of exotic animals, has captured and salvaged a veritable menagerie of extraordinary “pets” from America’s basements and backyards. How does one go about preventing the abuse and backyard breeding of these majestic cats? Record keeping is shoddy at best, leaving no way to keep track of the animals. But like the Capitol insurrectionists, many a collector has been done in by their eagerness to flaunt their bad behavior on social media. A tiger’s stripes are as unique as a fingerprint, which made it easier for animal researcher Jeff Kremer to trace certain cubs to adulthood. It helps that Harrison’s approach to getting answers would make the late Mike Wallace proud. If phone calls aren’t returned, the ever-courteous Harrison will come knocking on your front door, wearing a wire and with filmmaker Mike Webber covertly videoing the conversation from inside a safely distanced car. All that’s left is the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Bill, which revises requirements governing the trade of big cats. The commonsense bill has yet to win the Senate’s approval, but the sight of the look on Harrison’s face when it passed the House late last year should be enough to bring audiences cheering to their feet. (2021) — Scott Marks
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