Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Richard Burr (R-NC), introduced the Big Cat Public Safety Act to protect public safety and improve animal welfare. This bipartisan legislation would prohibit the ownership of big cats by unlicensed individuals and make it illegal for exhibitors to allow public contact with cubs.
“Big cats like lions, tigers, and cheetahs belong in their natural habitats, not in the hands of private owners where they are too often subject to cruelty or improper care,” said Senator Collins. “Our bipartisan bill would prohibit the private ownership of big cats, which threatens the safety of the animals and the public and harms conservation efforts. I have long advocated for policies that improve the welfare of animals, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.”
Private ownership of big cats raises significant public safety, animal welfare, and conservation concerns. It is estimated that thousands of big cats – including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, and cougars – are privately owned and held captive in insecure and unsafe conditions. Cub-handling attractions and petting zoos cause irreparable harm to the cubs, which are often separated from their mothers at an extremely young age and pose a danger to humans, who may be bitten or scratched. There have been more than 700 incidents in the United States involving big cats, including hundreds of human injuries, maulings, and deaths.
The Netflix series “Tiger King” released in March 2020 greatly raised public awareness of the rampant animal welfare abuses and public safety issues involved in private ownership of big cats. The series showed the abysmal conditions big cats, including tigers, lions, and leopards, as well as their cubs, live in throughout the United States and the immense risks private ownership of these animals pose for the individuals who keep them, the general public, and the animals themselves.
The legislation is endorsed by numerous animal welfare, conservation, and law enforcement organizations, including the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, National Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Animal Welfare Institute, International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Humane Society Legislative Fund, The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, World Wildlife Fund, Endangered Species Coalition Animal Wellness Action, Animal Wellness Foundation, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Big Cat Rescue, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.