In an attempt to help end private possession of big cats, the Big Cat Public Safety Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden. The legislation, which was advocated for by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, will ban private possession of tigers, lions, cougars, cheetahs, leopards, cougars and jaguars.
The bill passed the U.S. Senate unanimously in December 2022 and the House of Representatives in July 2022.
“The Big Cat Public Safety Act provides a clear framework for protecting big cats in the U.S. who have been vulnerable to the perils of private ownership due to a patchwork of state laws that have been inadequate in protecting animals and ensuring public safety,” Stephen Wells, executive director of Animal Legal Defense Fund, said. “The bill received bipartisan support from both chambers of Congress, and we are pleased to see it become law.”
The Big Cat Public Safety Act also makes it “illegal for exhibitors, such as circuses and zoos, to allow direct contact with cubs,” Animal Legal Defense Fund reported. While some exhibitors up sell visitors to interact with cubs, such as bottle-feeding tiger cubs, this can endanger cubs and visitors alike, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
“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,” Kitty Block, CEO and president of the Humane Society, said. “It’s the beginning of the end of the big cat crisis in the U.S.”
Some states currently have restrictions or bans in place against the private possession of wild animals, while other states have no regulations therefore, the Big Cat Public Safety Act closes any gaps across the country, the the Animal Legal Defense Fund said.
“These beautiful, but powerful predators deserve to live in the wild, not be kept in captivity for people’s entertainment,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “I’m thrilled that, after a groundswell of public and bipartisan support, this bill I’ve long advocated for will become law.”