After years of campaigning by big cat activists, the Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA) was finally passed by Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives originally passed the bill on July 29, 2022. And then in a true display of bipartisan support, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the BCPSA on December 6, 2022. The bill will now need to be signed into law by President Biden, who has shown support for it.
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 there is no comprehensive federal regulatory system in place documenting the number of big cats nor the incidents that occur between big cats and humans.
Lion Kimba at our LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa
FOUR PAWS and other animal advocacy groups have been pushing for greater protection for big cats in captivity for years, and passage of 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.
“For years, FOUR PAWS has been working to end the global exploitation of big cats, which includes investigating the use of big cats in entertainment and the commercial trade of live big cats and their body parts around the world,” said Danika Oriol-Morway, Executive Director of FOUR PAWS in the U.S. “As longtime advocates for the BCPSA, we are thrilled to see the U.S. finally take responsibility for its own big cat crisis,” says Oriol-Morway.
The BCPSA was sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, Representative Michael Quigley, D-Ill., and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. It is a rare instance in our current polarized political climate when congresspeople work together across the aisle, but animals have the power to unite us. It is encouraging to see that issues of animal welfare are important to people across the political spectrum.
Senator Collins, the Republican sponsor from Maine said, “Big cats like lions, tigers, and cheetahs belong in their natural habitats, not in the hands of private owners where they are too often subject to cruelty or improper care. Our legislation will prohibit the private ownership of big cats, which threatens the safety of the animals and the public and harms conservation efforts. I am pleased that our colleagues supported our bipartisan effort to improve the welfare of animals.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic sponsor from Connecticut said, “The Big Cat Public Safety Act will end the horrific exploitation of big cats and bolster public safety. These beautiful but powerful predators deserve to live in the wild, not be kept in captivity for people’s entertainment—even as cubs. I’m thrilled that, after a groundswell of public and bipartisan support, this bill I’ve long advocated for will become law.”
Tiger Shevar at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa
Netflix’s shocking documentary series, “The Tiger King” shed a spotlight on the cruel underworld of big cat exploitation in the US. In substandard zoos and backyards across the country, big cats live in deplorable and unsafe conditions without proper veterinary care, nutrition, and enrichment. The demand for big cats as exotic pets, the use of cubs for petting displays and photo opportunities, and the lucrative trade in their pelts and body parts provide dangerous incentives for their continued exploitation. When things go wrong, law enforcement officers and other first responders are put in harm's way to protect the general public and the animals.
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.
Lion Ivan at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa
At FOUR PAWS, we have rescued big cats from exploitation around the world and have given them permanent homes at our species appropriate sanctuaries.
LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary
Located in Bethlehem, South Africa, LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary sprawls over 3,000 acres of beautiful grasslands, hills, and plains. It is home to over 100 rescued animals, most of whom are big cats saved from war-ravaged zoos, circuses, private ownership, and the canned hunting industry.
FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary
At FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary, located in the Netherlands, we offer specialized and intensive care to traumatized big cats.
Lion Bobby at FELIDA Big Cat Sanctuary in the Netherlands
TIERART Wild Animal Sanctuary
TIERART Wild Animal Sanctuary, located in western Germany, is home to many different species of animals, from foxes to tigers, and encompasses an area of 35 acres.
Tiger Cara at TIERART Wild Animal Sanctuary in Germany