LANSING (WWJ/AP) – A bill that would free up Michigan facilities to let visitors pet and take pictures with bear cubs is headed to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.

The Michigan Senate gave final approval to the bill with a 26-8 vote Tuesday. It would allow the handling of bear cubs less than 9 months old or weighing no more than 90 pounds, but limits it to already existing facilities.

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The legislation was introduced specifically to allow cub handling at Oswald’s Bear Ranch, near Newberry in the Upper Peninsula.
Snyder spokesman Kurt Weiss said the governor supports the legislation.

The House passed the bill last week. It was approved by the Senate last month, but was returned to the Senate to give final approval to some changes.

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A group of zoos in Michigan — including Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak and Potter Park Zoo in Lansing — and the Michigan Humane Society have vehemently opposed the bill, arguing it will lead to the exploitation of animals and put people in risk of serious harm.

Ron Kagan, Director of the Detroit Zoological Society, said they’re  worried about public safety because bears can carry dangerous diseases.

They’re also concerned about what this bill means for the bears. Said Kagan, “We’ve seen the state records. They’re not rescues of orphaned bear cubs, they’re coming from places around the country that breed bears to sell them as cubs. So, a cub is taken away from its mother at a month-old, which is frankly very cruel, and then sold off. Some of those bears then after they get a little bit bigger apparently are destroyed.”

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