The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a landmark legislation that will see big cats protected from human mistreatment. The Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA) prohibits individuals from owning big cats in their homes or in roadside zoos. The act was passed by 272 votes, compared to 114 members who voted against the legislation. The bill, which was introduced by Michael Quigley and Brian Fitzpatrick in 2012, has been in the pipeline for a long time. Due to public outcry, the legislation has now been passed, prohibiting exploitation of big cats such as lions, leopards, and tigers.
“After months of the public loudly and clearly calling for Congress to end private big cat ownership, I am extremely pleased that the House has now passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act,” Quigley said. “Big cats are wild animals that simply do not belong in private homes, backyards, or shoddy roadside zoos.”
The success in passing this legislation in the House has been attributed to the exposure of animal exploitation on the Netflix series “Tiger King.” Following the show’s popularity, in April 2020, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released footage showing the abuse that tigers and other big cats suffer at the hands of Joe Exotic, one of the leading personalities in “Tiger King.” The footage of Joe Exotic and other zoo workers routinely abusing big cats lead to public outrage, which resulted in varying levels of discipline for several people featured in the show. Joe Exotic himself is currently in prison for wildlife violations.
The case of Joe Exotic’s mistreatment of wildlife is but one among many. Due to such incidences, multiple states have been implementing rules to control human-wildlife interactions. Currently, only five states, Nevada, Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, have no laws protecting big cats. As such, it has become necessary to have a federally recognized law to protect these animals. Keeping big cats in roadside zoos and homes also poses a public health threat. Since 1990, over 400 dangerous incidences, including 24 deaths, have been reported in 46 states and Washington, D.C.
According to HSUS CEO Kitty Block and Sara Admunsen, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the only way to end these incidences is by introducing federal legislation. “But to wipe this problem out for good, we need strong federal laws that will prevent unscrupulous people from forcing wild animals to spend their entire lives in abject misery while creating a public safety nightmare,” they said in a joint statement.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act now moves to the Senate floor for voting.
Image via Sherri Burgan