Big cats rejoice, the House passed a resolution that would ban the breeding of big cats, including tigers and lions, by private owners or for commercial “cub petting” businesses.
Proponents who have long sought to end private breeding of exotic animals as pets or performance animals are celebrating the passing of the Big Cat Public Safety Act. The new law would close loopholes in the Captive Wildlife Safety Act of 2003, which banned the sale and trade of big cats as pets. The new resolution bans private breeding and possession of tigers, lions, leopards and panthers, excluding zoos, sanctuaries and universities.
The bill, introduced by Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), was co-sponsored by 259 representatives, including 52 Republicans, and passed by a vote of 278 to 134. A joint statement released Monday by Several animal welfare organizations were released, begging Congress to “get the job done and close the loopholes”.
In a statement to rolling stone, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, chair of the House’s Natural Resources Committee, explained that “Far too often the people who own and breed lions, tigers and other wild cats don’t do it because they love animals – they do it because they know that they can make a quick buck from photos and other problematic tourist traps.” Grijalva said the animals trapped in these surgeries receive “the cheapest care and the lowest standard of safety” from owners, “putting both these creatures and humans at risk.”
“I’m proud to see so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle recognize the importance of this legislation,” Grijalva added, urging his Senate colleagues to take this “common sense protection for these animals.” and bring ourselves into the law.”
Animal welfare advocates believe that controlling the breeding, sale and possession of exotic animals is vital not only for animal welfare, but also for maintaining public safety. Private ownership of exotic animals of all varieties has led to deaths, maulings and escapes that often require law enforcement to euthanize the animal involved. In 2011, dozens of animals, including lions, tigers, monkeys, bears and wolves, were deliberately released from a private zoo in Zanesville, Ohio. The police were eventually forced to kill 48 of the animals.
Although the Big Cat Safety Act prohibits the breeding of large exotic cat species, the current private owners of these animals are not required to relinquish them. Current owners are allowed to keep their animals if they register with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action in Washington, DC, believes the bill, which was supported by the National Sheriff’s Association, will help law enforcement agencies identify abuses, disrupt illegal breeding and trade activities, and be better prepared. be at encounters where dangerous animals may be present. “In a perfect world, we wish those cats weren’t in neighborhoods and private homes,” Irby says.
“Ultimately, this legislation is about public safety,” said Rep. Quigley, the co-sponsor of the bill. “These are predators, not pets. Law enforcement officials have long advocated legislation that keeps dangerous wildlife out of their communities and reduces risk to first responders and the animals themselves.”
While the issue of animal welfare has a long legislative history, the 2020 Netflix series tiger king shine a spotlight on the rampant animal cruelty taking place within the exotic animal industry, including the mass breeding of big cats such as lions and tigers for commercial purposes.
At the height of his business ventures, the protagonist of tiger king Joe Exotic (legal name Joseph Maldonado-Passage) owned about 200 large breed cats. Exotic bred big cats and their hybrids for lucrative cub pet shows, and had to manage dozens, if not hundreds, of large adult cats inevitably produced by his enterprise, often illegally selling them to private buyers. The series documented the dangers of working with the animals, including mauling an employee who eventually lost his hand, as well as cases of cats biting Exotic and other workers interacting with them.
Exotic was eventually jailed on 17 charges of animal cruelty and two counts of attempted contract murder in connection with a plot to murder the owner of the Big Cat Rescue reservation, Carole Baskin. Other individuals in the docuseries have also been arrested and charged with wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty, including Bhagavan “Doc” Antle (for viewers: the man with all the women).
Irby believes the show has catapulted the work of big cat advocates into the public eye. “tiger king was a big part of the fact that this bill got the attention,” says Irby. “We’ve had so much momentum, we’ve had great encounters with members who aren’t normally on our side.”
After triumphing in the House, the bill now faces its next challenge in the Senate. “For too long, lax laws have allowed individuals to own big cats,” Quigley says. “The animals that are subject to these grotesque conditions deserve better. I hope my Senate colleagues will pass this legislation soon so we can make a difference to communities across the country and save these animals from a life of confinement and confinement.”