Ban On Big Cat Pets Heads To Biden’s Desk

All that awaits is a stroke of President Joe Biden’s pen.

The Big Cat Safety Act was passed by the US Senate this week, clearing its last legislative hurdle. The law would ban the “ownership” of big cats as pets and would end their exploitation by roadside zoo operators, while also outlawing big cat breeding by private parties.

It’s a bipartisan effort that gained steam after years of efforts by animal rights organizations and documentaries like Netflix’s infamous Tiger King, which showed millions of viewers how the majestic felids are kept in cruel conditions and chained to an endless breeding treadmill to provide a constant supply of cubs. Those cubs are taken away from their mothers shortly after birth and used as props in lucrative “selfie with a tiger” offerings at unaccredited roadside zoos.

Private “ownership” of big cats has been a contentious issue and an embarrassment for American animal rights activists, particularly because almost all big cat species are critically endangered. There are more tigers living in backyards in Texas and Florida, for example, than there are living in the wild in the entire world.

Breeding for conservation is a process that involves careful planning by experts at accredited zoos and sanctuaries. Because there are so few big cats left, with some subspecies down to just a few hundred living animals, mates must be carefully chosen to avoid genetic bottlenecks and to ensure healthy and viable breeding populations in the future. As private breeders and roadside zoos breed the animals without regard to subspecies or genetic diversity, they do not contribute to species conservation in any meaningful way and can do harm with indiscriminate matches, conservationists say.

leopard on brown log
Credit: Pexels

While the bill outlaws private ownership, it still allows sanctuaries, zoos and universities to keep big cats in regulated facilities that meet their physical and psychological needs. It also permits programs like the statewide puma project in California, which has been tracking the elusive felines for more than two decades and involves occasional sedation and temporary custody so the team can provide veterinary care.

“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,” said Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society of the United States. “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. 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. Now that the Big Cat Public Safety Act will become law, it’s the beginning of the end of the big cat crisis in the U.S.”

The Big Cat Safety Act cleared congress in mid summer, and its passage in the senate means it will get to Biden’s desk with several weeks to go in the current legislative session. Biden is expected to sign it without delay.

“For me, this fight for the big cats was never personal,” said Carole Baskin of Florida sanctuary Big Cat Rescue. “This was always about developing a national policy to shut down the trade in these animals as props in commercial cub handling operations and as pets in people’s backyards and basements.”

The new law does nothing for big cats currently in captivity, unfortunately. Current “owners” will be grandfathered in, although they won’t be able to replace their “pets” legally, as breeding and purchasing the animals will be illegal. The last “pet” members of the panthera genus in the US will die out within the next two or three decades, assuming no major outliers in lifespan.

As felines who can purr but not roar, mountain lions are not technically “big cats,” but they’ll also be protected under the new law. Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

13 thoughts on “Ban On Big Cat Pets Heads To Biden’s Desk”

  1. It’s funny how you & I have spoken about so many things we watch & I’ve appreciated so many directions & destinations you’ve sent me on in many movie genres. Yet, let me say this though, I had to know wth this Tiger King thing was & who was this Carol Baskin so I did a mini deep dive & ended up in a rabbit hole that I still can’t erase from my mind. Honestly, I don’t care that he’s rotting in jail for a murder he may not have committed. He is a predator & a vile excuse for a person (Baskins no party either) but the torture & killing & mistreatment of the big cat’s never allowed me to see his actual movie or anything else about him. I’m so glad there’s a bill out there for our big cat’s & I don’t see it not going thru. However, you never know there’s way too many people who want these exotic animals at home & I cannot see the point & I never will. I can understand some animals in captivity for the reason of their safety or to ensure preservation of a species (Which doesn’t always work like the case of the White Rhino, there’s 2, mom & daughter, their males failed to mate so when the 2 last ladies die, sadly they’re gone forever) but come on, why do people need big cat’s, birds from the freaking rainforest or monkeys at home?!?! It’s really cruel, they really aren’t ours, they belong to the land where they were born. It’s their birthright! Again, some animals must come into a sanctuary space if they’ve been injured or abandoned & will need to be raised in a safe environment but beyond that, selfish people are totally at fault for the big cat issue. I’m actually happy that there’s going to be a bill signed but I’m also so disappointed, it’s s****ty that we don’t know well enough that there’s got to be a bill written. Buddy & Oreo & All the others here like Bella & Dharma belong here with us but the big cat’s need to be in their big natural habitat until us humans probably take it away, but until then, let’s admit these big cat’s & other exotic animals are not pets & they aren’t ours & they never were & they should never be. Sorry if I got carried away but it’s heartbreaking. Best to you both Buddies xo Deborah & Oreo Boy (Who’s big but not that big… )

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I get it. It’s upsetting, for sure. There are as many as 10,000 tigers and 15,000 monkeys (capuchin, macaque, spider, etc) kept as pets in the US, not including other species of wildcat or the animals who live in poor conditions at roadside zoos.

      With big cats and primates, people buy them for thousands of dollars as cute babies, then realize keeping them is untenable as they grow up and begin to approach adulthood. That’s the reason there are so many sanctuaries and why they all operate at capacity.

      Hopefully there won’t be a need for 95% of the big cat sanctuaries in 20 years or so.

      Advocates of “exotic pets” try to compare it to keeping cats and dogs, but that argument doesn’t stand. There’s a world of difference between wild animals and domesticated species who have been living with people for tens of thousands of years. The latter need our care to live full, healthy lives, the former are always better off with minimal human interference.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. That is absolutely true. I don’t get the logic or comparison & that’s because there is nether. These so called roadside zoo’s & let’s not forget the horrendous circuses, with performing animals are abhorrent & cruel. They have only a plan for the moment & it’s usually brought about by greed. Exploitation is king & there’s no plan as you said when the cute little animal isn’t little anymore. It’s maddening to live in a world where common sense has fallen by the wayside & it bothers too few to mention. To me especially in a time where hate crimes are on the rise, I am once again reminded, how it hurts my heart that we even need laws to enforce the obvious narrative not to harm or hate someone simply because they’re not a carbon copy of what is considered by some to be the one & only right way to be. The Big Cat law is late, but it’s here. I wish this country would have heavier penalties for abuse as well (We are so far behind like 85% of the planet, even if a good portion of that stat is from our hugely disgusting farming industry Anyway…) let’s hopefully bring about the beginning of change & hope it rolls like a snowball picking up size & speed as it rolls on. It has to start somewhere & the Big Cat Act, will hopefully be that snowflake that starts our snowball adrift into something bigger….There is way too much avoidance of the obvious, so, I’m hopeful, guarded honestly, but happy all the same. Cheers to change, in the best of ways! 🐾🐾🥂🐾🐾and Best to you & Buddy today & everyday 🐾🐾👣👏🏻👏🏻

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Almost all of the roadside zoo operators from Tiger King are now in prison. The animal laws may not be enough to keep them there, but they’re all involved in illegal activity on some level, whether it’s permitting, not building adequate facilities, lying to investigators, exposing employees to injury with unsafe practices, etc.

        I think the big question going forward is whether authorities in Texas and Florida are gonna try to push back against the federal laws by claiming big cat/wild animal ownership is a freedom. Those two states in particular have big time breeding and sales operations.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m glad to see this happen! I just wish they had included mid sized native wildcats like lynxes and bobcats (they are actually lynxes). I’ve seen videos of people raising a bobcat at home; I don’t think that’s safe. That would be complicated as there are breeders keeping non-native mid sized wildcats to produce the hybrid breeds like Savannahs and Bengals.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I could be wrong, but I thought the bill covers wildcats in general despite the “big cat” name. Politicians seem to use the term the same way the public does, widening it beyond the genus panthera to include medium and large wild felines.

      I agree, people should not be allowed to keep lynxes as pets, and they should not be allowed to keep them to breed them with domestic cats for “exotic hybrids” as if they’re creating new Pokemon.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That would be good if the bill covers the lynxes and bobs! Although I haven’t heard of any attempts to breed the domestic cat to those species, I think there are likely breeders who own African Servals (purebred Savannah Cats ancestor) and Asian Leopard Cats (purebred Bengal Cats ancestor). So if the law does apply to smaller wildcats I can see where it could cause controversy and might need clarification. (I’m not into purebreds at all, myself. My cats are were/ are from the streets, woods, and roadsides.)

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Okay so the text of the bill specifically mentions all four main members of pyyanthera, as well as puma concolor and panthera uncia (snow leopard), but it also includes language prohibiting the ownership, breeding and exhibition of “wildcats” in general.

      Maybe there’s a lawyer among PITB readers with experience related to legislative language who can simplify this for us.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I apologize for missin this post Bi g Buddy! II AM here now & I am cheerin for this to be passed!!! No animal should be kept as these animals have been!
    Could someone explain who & what Bella AND Dharma are?? At first I read this as BellaDharma, my feline companion…..ROFL 🙂
    She is only 9 lbs but thinks she is a BIG cat alot of the time!
    Excellent pist Big Buddy & Buddy! So relieved Puma’s are covered under this too!
    🙂 BellaSita Mum aka Sherri-Ellen & ***purrss*** BellaDharma

    Liked by 3 people

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