Will Congress Finally Step Up to Protect Big Cats?

Animal advocates are applauding members of Congress for taking action to protect big cats from cruelty, abuse and neglect by reintroducing a big bill that would make it illegal to keep them as pets in the U.S.

It’s currently estimated that there are more than 10,000 privately owned big cats in captivity across the nation. While some states have laws banning the private possession of big cats, others have weak or no laws in place at all, leaving big cats to suffer in any number of situations that can range from simply not meeting their needs to being downright abusive.

Now animal advocates and organizations including Big Cat Rescue, Born Free USA, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund are applauding members of Congress for working to change that.

Representatives Jeff Denham (R-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) have officially reintroduced the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would strengthen existing federal legislation by closing loopholes to prohibit both private ownership and breeding of big cats in the U.S., with exemptions for sanctuaries and exhibitors who are licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“This common sense and narrowly-crafted bill is an urgently-needed solution to the problem of big cats kept in unsafe and abusive situations around the country. Thousands of big cats are currently owned as pets or maintained in ill-equipped roadside zoos. These poorly regulated facilities ― with animals kept in basements, cement pits, or in backyards ― pose a severe risk to the safety of people in surrounding communities, as well as the welfare of the cats themselves,” said Kate Dylewsky, program associate at Born Free USA.

Sadly for big cats, their needs simply aren’t going to be met by private owners, even when those owners have the best of intentions. While the situations they may be kept in vary, none are appropriate for these apex predators and keeping them confined is not just harming them, but is also putting communities and first responders at risk.

According to a joint statement from the organizations supporting this legislation, there have been more than 700 dangerous incidents involving tigers, lions, and cougars in the U.S., including hundreds of human injuries, maulings and deaths.

Facilities that are exploiting cubs to draw in visitors are complicit in big cat abuse. These facilities are inherently problematic in regards to overhandling of young cubs by the public, separating cubs from their mothers too soon, or supporting an endless cycle of breeding to keep cubs accessible, which just ends up producing more big cats than anyone wants.

Once adorable cubs outgrow their cuteness, and reality sets in that these are wild, and potentially dangerous animals that are difficult to manage and care for, the lucky ones may find their ways to sanctuaries, but that only overburdens the few organizations that can take them in, and many others won’t share that future.

“Relying on accredited sanctuaries to take in unwanted and usually neglected big cats is not a viable solution,” said Carole Baskin, founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue. “When individuals foolishly acquire big cats as pets or exploit them in entertainment businesses, the cats often suffer in deplorable conditions with inadequate nutrition and veterinary care for many years. Then when owners realize they are not equipped to take care of a big cat or no longer want them, the burden to house and care for these big cats falls upon sanctuaries. This is not the solution; it does not address the inhumane treatment of the cats nor the public safety issues.”

Hopefully Congress will act to protect these big cats, and us, from the range of problems involved in allowing people to keep them in private possession by passing this critical piece of legislation.


Please sign and share the petition asking Congress to protect both us and big cats by supporting and passing the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Lorraine A
Lorraine Aabout a year ago

From someone who volunteers where our big cats are all failed pets I would be so happy to see this come through! Petition definitely signed.

Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

Bravo!! Thank goodness.

Danuta W
Danuta Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Melania P
Melania P1 years ago

I hope they do; how can you call yourself civilized if you allow having wild animals as pets?

Margie F
Margie F1 years ago


Telica R
Telica R1 years ago

Petition signed. Fingers crossed though

Cindy M. Dutka
Cindy M. D1 years ago

Petition signed with hope and prayers this just might work this time. I have no faith in this administration, especially when it comes to the well-being of animals, but I just pray that a miracle occurs and we can make a difference for these poor souls who did not ask to be a "pet". They belong in their natural habitat.

chris b
chris B1 years ago

It pains me to see these beautiful cats captive and abused. And like you natasha, no faith in current admin. re: saving animals of any sort. His family just likes to kill them. very sad

Ann B
Ann B1 years ago

lets hope so!!!!