Big cats have long been held in captivity by private owners in the United States, causing significant harm to the animals as well as posing a risk to public safety. Fortunately, in December 2020, President Biden signed the Big Cat Public Safety Act into law, which restricts the ownership, breeding, and transportation of big cats. The act includes lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, and their hybrids.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act aims to stop unlicensed individuals and businesses from owning, breeding, and selling big cats. It also prohibits licensed exhibitors, such as zoos and animal sanctuaries, from allowing the public to pet big cats and their cubs. These provisions are crucial in protecting the welfare of the animals and preventing incidents like the ones shown in the infamous Netflix documentary series, “Tiger King.”
The documentary followed the life of Joe Exotic, a former big cat breeder and owner, who was later convicted for animal cruelty and his role in a murder-for-hire plot against a big cat rescue advocate. The documentary highlighted how privately owned big cats were mistreated, neglected, and kept in shocking conditions. Joe Exotic was just one example of many private owners who kept big cats in unsafe circumstances for personal gain.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act aims to prevent such exploitation and cruelty to these majestic animals. There have been numerous cases of big cats causing severe personal injuries, and in some cases, even death. According to data from the advocacy group Big Cat Rescue, there have been over 400 incidents involving captive big cats in the US since 1990, including 20 human deaths and nearly 250 injuries.
The new law has received widespread support from animal welfare advocates, including the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Many experts believe that the Big Cat Public Safety Act will significantly reduce the number of big cats being held captive in the US and improve the welfare of the animals.
However, some opponents argue that the act is unfair to licensed exhibitors and may lead to the closure of some animal sanctuaries. They argue that the act may prevent licensed exhibitors from fundraising and educating the public about these animals. Some opponents also argue that the act does not address the root cause of the problem, which is the demand for big cats as pets and entertainment.
Despite these concerns, the act is a significant step forward in protecting the welfare of big cats and public safety. The act will also decrease the number of big cats being held captive in the US, pushing more towards healthier alternatives of rehabilitation and proper care.
In conclusion, the Big Cat Public Safety Act is a vital piece of legislation for animal welfare in the United States. It restricts the ownership, breeding, and transportation of big cats and prohibits the public from petting the animals in licensed facilities. The act aims to prevent exploitation and cruelty to these animals, providing a healthier future for big cat care. While there are concerns about how it may impact some licensed exhibitors, this law is a significant step towards reducing the number of big cats being held captive and improving their welfare.