Tell Congress: Big Cats Are Not Pets

U.S. Senator John Kerry recently introduced a Senate version of the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (H.R. 4122/S. 3547), which is intended to protect big cats and the public by putting an end to the private ownership and breeding of big cats in the U.S.

The question of whether or not people should be allowed to own big cats came into the national spotlight last year after Terry Thompson opened the cage doors at his Zanesville, Ohio home and set 56 exotic animals free before taking his own life. Local law enforcement was unprepared for such a situation and ended up killing 50 animals in the interest of public safety… 38 of them were big cats.

Six other animals, including three big cats, were left in cages and spared from the incident, but one was later euthanized at the Columbus Zoo after being accidentally crushed under a gate.

“It is estimated that there are 10,000 to 20,000 big cats currently held in private ownership in the U.S. In the past two decades, more than 300 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats have resulted in the deaths of 21 people (including 5 children) and close to 250 additional humans have been mauled or injured. In addition, scores of big cats have been killed,” according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

There are currently only 29 states that have laws banning the private possession of big cats, while the remaining states have weak or no laws at all in place, leaving big cats to suffer in any number of situations that can range from simply not meeting their needs to being downright abusive.

In the case of captive tigers, there are estimated to be thousands that are classified as “generic,” not purebred, and are therefore not protected as endangered due to a USFWS rule that exempts them from the permit and reporting requirements that are required for endangered species, adding to the gaps in regulations where they’re concerned. There is no way to definitively track how many tigers there are, who owns them, where they’re kept or what happens to them when they die.

The lack of regulation has also led to worries that captive tigers may be vulnerable to domestic and international illegal trade, and if they are that it would increase trade and subsequently demand, which would further threaten the remaining tigers in the wild. Keeping tigers and other big cats in captivity also does nothing for conservation or to address the role they play as top predators in the ecosystem.

“It’s a little hard to believe that there’s a crazy patchwork of regulations governing people who try to keep wild cats as pets. I know it sounds like something you just read about when there’s a tragic news story, but it’s all too real for first responders who respond to a 911 call and are surprised to come face to face with a Bengal tiger,” said Sen. Kerry. “This bill will ensure that these endangered creatures are kept in secure, professional facilities like wildlife sanctuaries rather than in small cages in someone’s backyard or apartment building.”

A congressional briefing to support this legislation is also scheduled for September 20 and will feature actress Tippi Hedren, President and Founder of the Roar Foundation, Matt Lutz, Muskingum County Sheriff, Tracy Coppola, IFAW’s Big Cats Campaigns Officer, Nancy Blaney, Federal Policy Advisor for the Animal Welfare Institute, Nicole Paquette, Deputy Director for Programs & Policy for the HSUS and Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President of Born Free USA.

“We are grateful to Senator Kerry for his leadership in seeking protection of big cats and citizens,” said Coppola. “Federal control is essential toward effectively knowing how many dangerous big cats are being kept in private hands, under what conditions, and where.


Please sign IFAW’s petition telling Congress that big cats are not pets.


Related Stories:

Breaking News: Exotic Animals Loose in Ohio

The Massacre in Zanesville, Ohio: Why?

Exotic Pets: Bad for Animals, Bad for Humans


Photo credit: Thinkstock


W. C.
W. Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

Nickihermes Celine
Past Member 4 years ago


Lynn D.
Lynn D4 years ago

They belong free in a wild area!

Lola B.
Lola Barello5 years ago

Well Thomas K,,,is doesn't take a fricking rocket scientist to figure this out,,,,its on the internet,TV,Radio, newspapers and just plain ole people talking, how these pendejos get overwhelmed and end up 'not even asking for help', but like animal hoarders, thinking it'll get better, not seeing the reality that the animal r skinny, pacing back and forth,nowhere to go,,,and have medical problems. ROSE-COLORED GLASSES r what these PENDEJOS have on and iis pathetic! holla!

Thomas K.
Thomas K5 years ago

How would Lola even KNOW if 98 percent of owners were overwhelmed by their pets? Who does she get her information from?

Thomas K.
Thomas K5 years ago

The funny thing is that the only way to save them is to risk them. Propagate as many big cat babies as possible to those who want to take care of them and teach them how to do it, then leave them alone. The "regulations" were meant to prevent people from saving the animals and they work.

Shadow Manypaths
Shadow Manypaths5 years ago

the fate of big cats in the wild is far too uncertain to risk the lives, health, and genes of those preserved in captivity...close regulation, proper care standards, gene banks, and EDUCATION are critically needed if these species are to survive.

no, they are not "pets", no matter how cute the cubs may look, and belong in the hands of those committed and equipped to care for them on a permanent basis...which, judging by events, are as likely to be private citizens as public zoos.

set standards. enforce them. and subsidize those who have the desire and capacity to help preserve these beautiful animals for the future.

Ritva J.
Ritva J5 years ago

Big cats should be saved - but they shouldn't be forcefully domesticated.

Beth M.
Beth M5 years ago

What don't people understand about the word "wild". These are wild animals, not pets.

James Hager
James H5 years ago

if someones stupid enough to own a tiger, then i reserve the right to laugh my ass off at them when it mauls them before calling for help or checking to see if theyre all right....thanks for the article!!!