Thousands of big cats live in very poor conditions due to commercial trade in circuses, zoos, and private ownership all across the world today. FOUR PAWS believes that big cats should not be kept as pets or for entertainment. These wild animals suffer in captivity under inadequate keeping conditions including lack of expert care, frequent traveling, harsh training, and intensive interaction with humans.
Protection in the age of mass extinction
The commercial trade of big cats
The illegal trade and use in traditional medicine
The Big Cat Public Safety Act
After years of campaigning by big cat activists, the Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA) was finally passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden on December 20, 2022.
The private ownership of big cats is a huge animal welfare and human safety issue. Between 5,000 – 10,000 big cats are estimated to be in private ownership in the U.S.1 However, the actual number is unknown, as historically there has been no comprehensive federal regulatory system in place documenting the number of big cats nor the incidents that occur between big cats and humans.
The BCPSA is a huge step forward for both big cats and the public. The Act will require private owners to register the animals they already have, while prohibiting them from breeding, selling, or acquiring more animals. It will stop the mass breeding of lions, tigers, and other big cats by banning direct contact between the public and big cats, which will put an end to the incredibly cruel “cub petting” operations throughout the U.S. In 2022, FOUR PAWS USA, in collaboration with NYU, published new research revealing the dire consequences of "cub-petting” and its incredibly harmful impacts on big cats.
Until now, state laws were responsible for regulating the ownership of big cats, and the laws varied wildly from one state to the next. The passage of this new federal law will ban the private ownership of big cats across all 50 states, and it will end the exploitation of tigers, lions, leopards, jaguars, and other captive big cats across the country.
The Endangered Species Act
Passed in December of 1973, The US Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a groundbreaking piece of federal legislation which protects threatened or endangered wildlife, fish, and plants, including tigers, lions, and several other big cats. The ESA has led to the successful recovery of many prominent species, such as the bald eagle, while also highlighting the continued need for protection of vulnerable wildlife, such as tigers, elephants, and other core species that FOUR PAWS provides homes for at our sanctuaries.
FOUR PAWS is a member of an unprecedented coalition of agencies, organizations, and nonprofits all coming together to honor the conservation legacy and success of this legislative milestone. Learn more about the coalition and the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Protecting Big Cats Globally
Our #BreakTheViciousCycle Campaign
FOUR PAWS is fighting to ban the commercial trade of ALL big cats in South Africa
South Africa is intensively farming and commercially trading big cats. The growing exploitation includes not only indigenous species such as lions and leopards, but also exotic species like tigers and jaguars.
Big cats are being traded both legally and illegally, fueling an international market for traditional medicine products and so-called luxury items. This contributes to the decline of the species in the wild and a worldwide biodiversity crisis.
As long as there is trade, every big cat has a price on its head.
Sign our petition to #BreakTheVicious Cycle
>300 across South Africa
10,000-12,000 lions and an unknown number of tigers are kept in captivity across the country
Females are forced to produce 2-3 litters per year, more than they would in the wild
A lifetime of exploitation
Separated at birth, cubs are used for petting exhibits, photos, trophy hunting and other types of entertainment
Sold to other breeders or zoos
Lion cubs are sold for between $700-$1000
Tiger cubs are sold for between $1000-$1,700
More valuable dead than alive
Once no longer able to perform, big cats are sold to supply Asian markets
European Tiger Trade
FOUR PAWS has been fighting for years to end the global exploitation of big cats. Our research and undercover investigations have revealed that the lucrative commercial trade of captive tigers is happening throughout Europe as well.
Shockingly, tigers born in captivity in Europe can still be traded for commercial purposes like circuses or for private keeping and for photo opportunities. To make matters worse, no legal authority or country knows how many tigers are currently kept in the European Union. Help us ban this #RuthlessTrade.
- A ban on selling wild animals at fairs and exhibitions
- A ban on private ownership and public contact with big cats and bears
- Improvements and enforcement of legal standards regarding keeping conditions for wild animals, particularly:
- Criteria regarding animal protection and appropriate conditions for keeping wild animals
- Criteria for potential dangers to both people and animals
- Criteria with regard to risk factors in the areas of nature protection and the protection of species
- A ban on the import of animals captured in the wild
- Compulsory registration for current private keepers