New law on 'big cats' will ban cruel possession of tigers in Texas and U.S.
Animal advocates in Dallas, Texas, and across the U.S. are celebrating the December 6 passage by the US Senate of a major law that will intervene on behalf of "big cats."
Called the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263/S. 1210), the bill, which was sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Richard Burr (R-NC), aims to end abusive practices associated with keeping big cats in captivity.
The Senate's passage follows the approval by the House of Representatives in July. All it needs now is a sign-off by President Joe Biden, who's expected to give the thumbs-up.
First introduced in 2012, the Big Cat Public Safety Act would:
- prohibit individuals from possessing lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrids
- prohibit public petting, playing with, feeding, and photo ops with cubs
It will apply only to big cats kept as pets. Sanctuaries, universities, and zoos would be exempt. Current big cat owners would be grandfathered in but would be required to register their animals.
As a release from the nonprofit Animal Welfare Institute notes, photo ops with cubs create a breeding cycle that results in a surplus of tigers who get dumped once they are no longer cute, manageable cubs. Cub-petting facilities have also been known to kill tigers once they get too big.
Thousands of big cats are thought to be in private hands, posing a threat not only to the public but also to first responders and animal control officers, who put their lives at risk when responding to animals that have escaped or attacked. The Big Cat Public Safety Act has been endorsed by a large number of law enforcement organizations and officers.
Texas has had multiple potentially dangerous incidents with big cats, including a baby tiger cub that was being kept illegally in the Dallas home of a mediocre rapper named Trapboy Freddy in 2022, and a pet tiger that got loose in Houston in 2021.
Brittany Peet, a lawyer for the PETA Foundation whose lawsuits against big cat abusers like Tiger King villains Tim Stark and Jeff Lowe helped pave the way for this legislation, says it's impossible to know exactly how many big cats are being held in Texas.
"Texas has some laws regulating ownership of wild animals, but enforcement is left to each individual county, making it impossible to get an accurate count," Peet says.
"But the other part of the law that bans public contact will have a huge impact on the population of captive big cats," she says. "If cub-petting facilities are no longer allowed, then there's no incentive to keep breeding cubs."