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Congresswoman Wilson Votes to Protect Big Cats and End the Abusive Cat Petting Industry

Miami, Fla. – Yesterday, Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24) voted in favor of H.R. 263, Big Cat Safety Act, a bipartisan bill that would prohibit the private ownership of big cats like tigers, lions, leopards, and pumas and end the abusive cub petting industry.

“For too long, big cats have been mistreated and abused at the hands of private owners who seek to exploit them from birth as a money-making strategy,” said Congresswoman Wilson. “Animals like lions and tigers simply do not belong in people’s cages, apartments, back yards, or roadside zoos where they pose a great risk of escaping and causing harm to all those who encounter them. I voted for the Big Cat Safety Act to end this cruelty and work to keep our communities safe.”

An estimated 20,000 big cats, including tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, cougars, and hybrids are currently kept in private ownership in the United States. Animals held captive by private ownership place the public, including law enforcement and first responders, in grave danger – it often results in these animals living in miserable conditions. Last year, public awareness of the plight of big cats kept in private ownership increased dramatically after the release of the Netflix Series Tiger King which takes place partly in Florida.  The series revealed the inhumane conditions thousands of tigers, lions, leopards, and pumas are kept in by irresponsible owners. 

The Big Cat Public Safety Act works to put an end to the well-known mistreatment and ensure the continued exploitation of these animals. Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Prohibit the private ownership of big cats like tigers, lions, leopards, and pumas.
  • Prohibit exhibitors from allowing public contact with big cats, including cubs, thereby, among other things, ending the abusive cub petting industry.  Currently, when cubs used for petting grow too large, they are caged, sold to the pet trade, or killed.
  • Build on the Captive Wildlife Safety Act by making it illegal to privately possess or breed lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrid.
  • Under the bill, current owners of big cats are grandfathered in, allowing owners to keep their animals if they register with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and abide by listed regulations.

Among the bill’s supporters are a number of national organizations such as National and State-level Sheriffs Associations, the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and Animal Wellness Action. The legislation passed the House under the 116th Congress but ultimately failed to become law as the Senate failed to act on the bill.