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Quigley’s “Big Cat Public Safety Act” to End Private Ownership of Dangerous Big Cats Passes House

Dec 3, 2020
Press Release

Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley's (IL-05) legislation the bipartisan Big Cat Public Safety Act passed the House of Representatives. The Big Cat Public Safety Act, which was co-sponsored by more than half of the House, prohibits the private ownership of big cats like lions and tigers and curbs the exploitative industry of cub-petting.

“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. Big cats are wild animals that simply do not belong in private homes, backyards, or shoddy roadside zoos. Too often, law enforcement and first responders are the ones who end up in danger from these animals and, in a time when our first responders are already facing increased risk from the pandemic, we owe it to them to limit the additional dangers they face on the job,” said Quigley. “Animals like tigers, lions, leopards, and pumas should not be exposed to miserable conditions so many of them in our country currently face. By passing the Big Cat Public Safety Act we are one step closer to ensuring these animals are treated humanely and to keeping the public safe from dangerous big cats. It is my hope that the Senate will quickly bring this bill to the floor so we can get it signed into law before the year ends."

“I am pleased to see the House passed our Big Cat Public Safety Act today. For too long, big cats have been mistreated, exploited, and abused in private roadside zoos,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). “As a member of the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, I’m committed to ensuring our government is doing its part to promote animal welfare. It is crucial we stand up for animals, both as individuals and as a society, and our legislation takes an incredible step to protect all animals.”

This spring, the Netflix series “Tiger King” brought increased public attention to the dangers of unaccredited animal parks and led to a surge in support for the Big Cat Public Safety Act. The bill was endorsed by over 60 law enforcement organizations, zoos, animal sanctuaries, and animal welfare and environmental organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriff Association, the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Animal Wellness Action.

“We have seen the shocking news reports of a tiger being removed from a tiny apartment in Harlem, a sheriff’s department forced to shoot lions running along a highway, and a teenager killed as she posed with a tiger for a class portrait. We have also witnessed heartbreaking footage of infant cubs pulled from their mothers to be exploited for profit, and huge tigers pacing neurotically in small, barren backyard cages. The trade in big cats is a tragedy and a national embarrassment. We commend the House for passing the Big Cat Public Safety Act and we hope the Senate will swiftly follow suit,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute.

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said “Long before ‘Tiger King,’ Joe Exotic and dozens of others like him were under our scrutiny due to their abuse of tigers -- both adults and cubs. While the world of private tiger ownership thrives in the shadows with little mandatory documentation, we estimate that hundreds of tigers across the country are kept as pets and money-making props by roadside zoos, pseudo-sanctuaries and cub-petting operations. They are often torn from their mother moments after birth, hit, dragged, and forced into photo ops, and live in squalid conditions. This is a public safety disaster. Congress must pass The Big Cat Public Safety Act to put an end to this cycle of misery, abuse, and danger once and for all.”

Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund said, “Whether it’s Joe Exotic, Doc Antle or Joe Blow doing it, it makes no sense to permit private individuals to keep big cats captive for pleasure or profit. Passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act by the U.S. House will help end the public safety hazards associated with private ownership, prohibit public contact based on snatching infant cubs from their mothers for ‘pay to play’ and selfie-taking operations, and cripple the shady networks that put these endangered animals at risk of being killed for the wildlife products trade. Now it’s up to the U.S. Senate to pass the bill and put the cruelty depicted in ‘Tiger King’ on the trash heap of history where it belongs.”

“Big cats are amazing, but best viewed at a distance in the wild or through a sound barrier at an accredited zoo,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action.  “Breeding them for the pet trade or for cub petting is a hazard for people and the animals, and we give a big roar of approval to Reps. Quigley and Fitzpatrick for leading the way on getting the bill passed today in the House.”

“We’re one step closer to ending the private possession of big cats in this country. Tigers, lions, and other big cats have complex psychological and physical needs and simply cannot thrive in someone’s backyard or basement. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is grateful for the leadership of the bill’s sponsors for today’s victory on behalf of animals,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director, Stephen Wells.

“By passing the Big Cat Public Safety Act, the U.S. House has taken a critical step forward in safeguarding wildlife and people alike” said Carson Barylak, Campaigns Manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “We thank the sponsors and supporters of this important legislation for taking action to advance animal welfare and conservation while protecting first responders and communities across the U.S.”

“Nine years ago, in Zanesville Ohio, we witnessed the horrific consequences of a private individual possessing big cats and other dangerous wild animals. The result was a national tragedy not only for the owner and the animals but also for local law enforcement who were forced to quickly handle the situation without proper knowledge or resources. I look back on that day and am grateful for how far we have come thanks to Congressman Quigley, Congressman Fitzpatrick, and the many other animal welfare champions in Congress. We applaud the House for standing for animal welfare and public safety by passing the Big Cat Public Safety Act and encourage the Senate to swiftly take up the bill before the end of the year,” said Angela Grimes, CEO of Born Free USA.

More information on the bill is available HERE.