These days, when you hear the term "big cat," you probably think of a certain popular Netflix show. The series "Tiger King" follows eccentric big cat owner Joe Exotic through his twisting journey from founding a big cat "zoo" in Oklahoma to, spoilers ahead, eventually being arrested and sent to prsion. But if you can believe it, he did not end up there for owning and breeding wild animals. That, sadly, is still widely legal in the U.S.
It's currently estimated that there are more than 10,000 big cats, including lions, tigers and leopards, being kept as pets or in roadside zoos in the U.S.
While some states have laws banning the private possession of big cats, others have weak or no laws in place at all, leaving them to suffer in any number of situations that can range from simply not meeting their needs to being downright abusive.
While the situations they may be kept in vary, none are appropriate for these apex predators. Keeping them confined isn't just harming them, it's also putting communities and first responders at risk.
Now, Congress has an opportunity to change that.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act, which was reintroduced in the House by Representatives last year by Michael Quigley of Illinois and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, would address this issue by closing loopholes in existing legislation by prohibiting private ownership of big cats, in addition to making it illegal for exhibitors to allow the public to interact with cubs.
Unfortunately, not only is allowing private ownership hurting individual animals and putting us at risk, there's also the matter of facilities that continue to exploit cubs to draw in visitors.
Not only do they separate cubs from their mothers too soon, and allow overhandling of cubs by the public, they continue to support an endless cycle of breeding to keep cubs accessible, which just ends up producing more big cats than anyone wants.
Sadly, once those adorable cubs outgrow their cuteness and become too big and dangerous to handle, they're often discarded. Some may be fortunate enough to end up in sanctuaries, but those facilities are already overburdened with unwanted animals, while even more concerns have been raised that unwanted big cats are fueling illegal wildlife trafficking.
Big cats deserve better than this. Please sign and share this petition urging members of Congress to protect both us and them by passing this commonsense, and much needed, legislation.