WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to protect people from being harmed and crack down on the abuse of lions, tigers, and other exotic big cats in private captivity, the U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan Big Cat Public Safety Act this week, sending it to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a cosponsor of the bill, says it will prevent animal cruelty by prohibiting people from irresponsibly keeping lions, tigers, leopards, and other exotic big cat species as pets and will crack down on unscrupulous breeders.

“Big cats are predators, not pets.  It shouldn’t be as easy to acquire a tiger cub as it is to have a cat or a dog,” said Senator Reed.  “This is a bipartisan, commonsense law to stop the mistreatment and exploitation of these animals.  Putting federal standards in place ensures abusive breeders can’t just cross state lines to exploit loopholes in the exotic animal trade.”

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263) in July by a vote of 278 to 134. 

The Big Cat Public Safety Act would help protect public safety and improve animal welfare by prohibiting the private ownership of lions, tigers and other dangerous big cats as pets.  Accredited zoos, universities, and wildlife sanctuaries would be exempt from this prohibition.  The bill also makes it illegal for exploitative exhibitors to allow public contact with cubs to avoid animal abuse and would help ensure that only accredited zoos and facilities would be allowed to breed big cats.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act is endorsed by numerous animal welfare, conservation, and law enforcement agencies including: the Association of Zoos & Aquariums; National Sheriffs' Association; Animal Welfare Institute; International Fund for Animal Welfare; The Humane Society of the United States; Born Free USA, World Wildlife Fund; American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA);

According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are an estimated 3,900 tigers left in the wild, and reports suggest that the current captive tiger population in the U.S may be twice that figure, though there is no way to know for certain because there is no reliable database that keeps track of all the captive big cats owned by private individuals.

According to Big Cat Rescue, there have been over 790 incidents in the U.S. involving captive exotic cats since 1990 resulting in the deaths of 25 humans, the additional mauling of 274 more adults and children, 298 escapes, the killing of 151 big cats, and 135 confiscations.

It now goes to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law and the White House has issued a statement of support for the bill.