UPDATE: The ‘Big Cat Public Safety Act’ Is One Step Closer To Becoming Law In The U.S.; Bill Now Heads To The Senate For A Vote

UPDATE: The U.S. House of Representatives just passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263) by a vote of 278 to 134. The bill would prohibit keeping lions, tigers, and other big cat species as pets, and ban direct public contact such as cub petting. The crucial bill now heads to the Senate for a vote.

Big cat ownership is an epidemic in the United States. Untold numbers of captive big cats live in shoddy roadside zoos or as pets living in people’s homes. More often than not, these large, dangerous, wide-roaming apex predators are kept in small, barren cages, where they can barely turn around. They are improperly fed, are not provided with appropriate veterinary care, and have no means to express their complex emotional and behavioral needs. Cubs are ripped away from their mothers to be offered to paying customers for feeding and petting opportunities and photo ops. Keeping big cats in these settings is not only inhumane but is also a serious public safety risk.

June 17th:
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263) by a vote of 25-17. The bill was introduced by Representatives Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). This critical bill, and its U.S. Senate companion bill (S. 1210) led by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Richard Burr (R-NC), would prohibit keeping tigers, lions, leopards, and other big cat species as pets.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act also makes it illegal for exhibitors, such as circuses and zoos, to allow direct contact with cubs. Horrifically, oftentimes exhibitors drug the animals in order to keep them docile while they interact with paid customers, which can lead to long-term health problems.

In December of 2020, another version of the bill had been voted on and passed in the House by a vote of 272 to 114, but unfortunately, the Senate failed to vote on it and the bill died in the 116th Congress.

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, cubs can only be “handled” for a few months, resulting in them being prematurely weaned and forcibly separated from their mothers, and also often resulting in long-term psychological repercussions. They are then discarded around 12 weeks old to be sold into the “pet” trade, to roadside zoos, or illegally “harvested” for their body parts.

“Our undercover work has exposed the tragic reality of big cats in the U.S. for years. Behind each deceptive tiger cub selfie and cub-petting attraction is an ugly money-making scheme that tears newborn cubs away from their mothers,” said Kitty Block, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

“Their infancy is then spent being passed around as objects by the paying public until they are too large to handle. The abuse doesn’t end there. Some of these big cats end up in roadside zoos where they pace in bare and filthy cages, while others end up as exotic pets, living unnaturally in a house or led around on a leash, posing safety threats to communities,” continued Block. “How can we continue to put these animals and the public at serious risk? We can’t. The cycle of big cat breeding, objectification, and cruelty must end now.”

American actress Kate Mara is one of the many supporters of this critical bill and signed a petition co-authored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Blackfish Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

“Wild animals, including tigers bred for their cubs, are exploited endlessly for profit by scofflaws in this cruel industry. The recent money laundering charges against Doc Antle, who is also facing wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty charges, underscore the unscrupulous nature of the characters involved,” said Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “In captivity, lions, tigers, and leopards are entirely dependent on our mercy and good judgment, and the Big Cat Public Safety Act is the down payment on what we owe them. Congress needs to seize the moment to pass this bill and shut down every Doc Antle or Joe Blow exploiting big cats and their cubs now.”

We must call on the U.S. House of Representatives to vote in favor of this important bill.

Please submit Animal Legal Defense Fund’s support letter to your federal lawmakers urging them to endorse the Big Cat Public Safety Act, HERE! 

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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