UNITED STATES (WMBD) — More protections are on the way for big cats in the U.S.
The U.S. Senate passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act on Tuesday night, having passed in the House late July.
This legislation prohibits big cats like tigers, lions and others from being kept as pets. It also bans public contact with these animals, like photo ops and cub-petting.
WMBD’s Matt Sheehan spoke with Carole & Howard Baskin, who you might know from the Netflix hit show “The Tiger King.” Carole has been working on this legislation for decades and said this is a huge win for big cats.
“This is the culmination of so many years of effort of all these animal groups working together to end the abuse of these big cats,” Baskin said. It will protect so many of these cubs from being bred to be used as photo props, ego props, for only a few months of their lives. Once they get to be about 3 months old, they can take a finger off a child. So they become a huge liability. That’s when they’re dumped into private ownership as pets, inappropriate pets, and so it’s going to stop that cycle of abuse.”
One of these animal rights groups, the Humane Society, calls this passage the “beginning of the end of the big cat crisis in the U.S.”
“An extraordinarily cruel era for big cats in the U.S. finally comes to an end with the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act. We’ve been fighting for this moment for years because so many so-called ‘tiger kings’ have been breeding tigers and other big cats to use them for profit,” said Humane Society President & CEO Kitty Block. “And once the cubs grow too large for cub-petting or selfies, these poor animals get dumped at roadside zoos or passed into the pet trade, which is not only a terrible wrong for the animals, but also a threat to public safety.”
Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) was a lead sponsor of the bill in the House. He sent WMBD the following statement and stated that he is overjoyed that the bill is finally being passed.
“This bill has been one of the most important projects during my time in Congress. Since 2019, we have been working on this legislation and last night, I was so proud to see the Senate push it across the finish line. I believe in this bill, as do countless animal rights groups and law enforcement agencies who will benefit from its passage,” wrote Quigley. “For too long, lax laws have allowed private citizens to own big cats. Big cats are wild creatures—they should not be subjected to a life of confinement, where they are used and abused for entertainment purposes. Additionally, the possibility of one of these cats escaping, will no longer loom over our communities and first responders. These cats will be safer, and so will we. I look forward to President Biden signing this bill into law.”
Carole said every day is a “bonus day” now that the bill has passed Congress.
“I only had to live long enough for this to pass Congress,” Baskin laughed.” Every day I get past that is a bonus! Ultimately, what I believe it will do is help us save big cats in the wild.”
Howard Baskin, the Board Chairman at Big Cat Rescue, said this won’t change too much from local zoos who are operating normally.
“You have basically two classifications that fall under zoo. You have the large, AZA zoos, that are well run and doing some level of conservation work as part of their mission,” Howard said. “Then you have the road-side zoos, like the Joe Exotics, or they used to be that are benefitting themselves financially and egotistically from the animals. They aren’t going to do anything, but at least the bill stops them from doing the cub-petting operations.”
Howard said this bill also stops big cats from ending up in people’s backyards.
“It grandfathers in the existing, unlicensed owners who just have cats in their backyards. But they’re not allowed, under the new law, to either acquire or breed anymore. So the cub-petting operators can no longer do these sales or gifts that they take cash for.”
Carole said the next step is going to be the enforcement of the law.
“It will probably be up to the community to report to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service if they know of neighbors that have these cats,” Baskin said. “They’re supposed to register them one time so the Service knows if they’re buying or breeding more. That will give first responders the ability, when they’re dealing with fires, tornadoes, or hurricanes, that these animals are in their area. Right now they don’t know until some big cat is running loose.”
This legislation now heads to President Biden’s desk for his signature.