In huge news, Congress passed The Big Cat Public Safety Act, which bans private possession, and public contact and increases restrictions on the breeding, trading, and exploitation of big cats in the United States.
The bill passed the US Senate yesterday and now will go to President Biden, who is expected to sign off on the bill. The groundbreaking bill was sponsored by Representative Mike Quigley and Senator Richard Blumenthal, who are both known for their work to protect big cats.
“The Big Cat Public Safety Act will end the horrific exploitation of big cats and bolster public safety. These beautiful but powerful predators deserve to live in the wild, not be kept in captivity for people’s entertainment—even as cubs. I’m thrilled that, after a groundswell of public and bipartisan support, this bill I’ve long advocated for will become law,” said Senator Blumenthal.
Big cat ownership came into the spotlight after Tiger King featuring Joe Exotic came on Netflix in 2020. The bill is an attempt to draw a much-needed line between backyard breeders and those who are recognized and accredited as Species Protection Programs, wildlife sanctuaries meeting standards similar to the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, and more. It is specifically aimed at backyard breeders, roadside zoos, cub petting, and photo operations.
These big cats are often kept as prisoners for profit at roadside zoos, where they are exploited and forced into activities like cub petting. They’re frequently declawed and have their teeth dulled so that they can be forced into interactions with customers, even though declawing has been prohibited by the USDA since 2005. Adult big cats kept as pets are known to suffer psychologically as a result of being housed in small, confined areas. Cubs used for petting and photo ops are often taken from their mothers at an early age and also suffer psychologically as a result.
“We are thrilled that Congress has voted to ban the backyard breeding, private ownership, and public contact of these magnificent animals,” ADI President Jan Creamer said. “Our thanks to Representative Quigley and Senator Blumenthal for their leadership on this important legislation. It is time to put an end to the horrific scenes of babies ripped from their mothers at birth, and tiny cubs passed around as photo props. Truly a life of misery for big cats.”
The bill also grandfathers in entities for having cats that were born before the bill’s enactment as long as they are registered and do not allow direct public contact with the animal, and do not breed, acquire, or sell the animal after the bill is enacted.
Organizations like Animal Defenders International (ADI) and celebrities everywhere are applauding The Big Cat Public Safety Act finally passing Congress.
Award-winning TV legend Bob Barker said, “The abuse big cats suffer is indefensible. They are starved, mistreated, kept isolated in tiny cages, their paws mutilated, their bodies drugged, their lives miserable, and their deaths violent and ugly. It must stop. Please join Animal Defenders International in supporting the Big Cat Public Safety Act today.”
Actress Alexandra Paul said, “Breeding big cats in captivity is not conservation. Captive breeding will often result in compromised gene pools and unnatural hybrids. It would be disastrous to wild populations if the damaging genetic results of captive in-breeding found their way into the wild gene pool.”
For years the government failed to help big cats and enact legislation needed to stop the suffering of these animals. This bill is a step in the right direction.
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