Biden Signs Big Cat Public Safety Act, Enacting Historic Protections for Captive Big Cats

A tiger lays down in a metal cage.
Photo by Janusz Sobolewski

Washington, DCPresident Joe Biden signed the Big Cat Public Safety Act today, officially ending the dangerous trade in pet big cats and ensuring that no more cubs are ripped from their mothers at birth to be traumatized for profit.

The bill, which passed the Senate earlier this month, was sponsored by Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Richard Burr (R-NC).

First introduced in 2012, the Big Cat Public Safety Act prohibits private individuals from possessing lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrid of these species. This prohibition only applies to big cats kept as pets—sanctuaries, universities, and zoos are exempt. Current big cat owners are grandfathered in but are required to register their animals in order to alert first responders and animal control officers that these dangerous cats are being held in their communities.

Additionally, the law prohibits public petting, playing with, feeding, and photo ops with cubs. The profit derived from encouraging the public to handle and pose with cubs is the primary driver of a relentless breeding cycle that floods the exotic pet trade with surplus tigers who have outgrown the cub stage. Facilities that offer cub petting opportunities have also been known to kill adolescent tigers once they are too big to handle and can no longer generate profits.

“The Big Cat Public Safety Act enacts historic protections for captive big cats in the United States,” said Kate Dylewsky, senior policy advisor at the Animal Welfare Institute. “At long last, we will see an end to the exploitative and dangerous trade in pet big cats, as well as the abusive public handling of cubs. This law protects animals from cruelty, and protects our communities from life-threatening encounters with these wild animals. A heartfelt thank you to President Biden for signing this bill into law, and to the tireless efforts of the bill’s sponsors—Representatives Quigley and Fitzpatrick and Senators Blumenthal, Collins, Carper, and Burr—for passing this bill and advancing protections for captive big cats in the United States.”

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
margie@awionline.org, (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

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