Netflix’s popular documentary series “Tiger King,” sheds light on the prolific issues surrounding wild cats kept in captivity across the US. To address the threats that captivity poses to communities and these cats, the House of Representatives has passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act.
The bill expands upon the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 and limits who is able to transport, sell, buy, breed, or possess big cats. It covers lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or hybrids of those animals.
The bill passed 272-114 and if it is signed into law, most citizens will not be allowed to own big cats and all direct public contact, such as petting, will be banned. Only wildlife sanctuaries, universities, state-licensed veterinarians, and facilities with a specific license from the Department of Agriculture will be permitted to acquire big cats. However, those who owned big cats before the bill goes into law will be allowed to keep their animals.
Carole Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida who was featured in “Tiger King” is a big advocate for the bill and said, “We are thrilled that the Big Cat Public Safety Act passed the House with bipartisan support to protect the big cats from abuse, the public and first responders from injuries and death, and the tiger in the wild from extinction.”
There are roughly 10,000 big cats in the US and more tigers in captivity than in the wild. Unfortunately, these animals often live in abusive situations that do not replicate their natural environment. This bill is a solution for protecting big cat species in the future while still allowing valuable conservation work to be done at certified sanctuaries.