A bill featured in Netflix’s docuseries “Tiger King” and supported by Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act passed the House by a 272-114 vote last Thursday. Fitzpatrick was among the lawmakers who introduced the bill in the 116th Congress.
The bill proposes banning the trade of big cats like tigers, cheetahs and jaguars as pets and puts limits on who can posses, transport, breed, buy, and sell big cats through amendments to the Lacey Act, which bans trafficking in illegal animals, fish, and plants.
The legislation, which received significant support in the House, also puts a halt on the showing of big cats for cub petting at roadside zoos.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act was featured in the hit Tiger King series and supported by Carole Baskin, who operates Big Cat Rescue in Tampa.
“We are thrilled that the Big Cat Public Safety Act passed the House with bipartisan support to protect the big cats from abuse, the public and first responders from injuries and death, and the tiger in the wild from extinction,” Baskin wrote on social media. “None of these important goals are partisan in any way and we hope the Senate will follow suit quickly to make it into law.”
Fitzpatrick’s office did not confirm whether or not the congressman watched Tiger King, but they did release a statement celebrating the passage of the bill, which will need to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president.
“For too long, big cats have been mistreated, exploited, and abused in private roadside zoos,” said Fitzpatrick. “As a member of the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, I’m committed to ensuring our government is doing its part to promote animal welfare. It is crucial we stand up for animals, both as individuals and as a society, and our legislation takes an incredible step to protect all animals.”
There’s not an exact number on how many exotic cats are in the country, but it is estimated to be tens of thousands.
The International Fund For Animal Welfare reports there are more tigers in captivity than in the wild.
The bill follows a 2011 incident where dozens of exotic animals had to be killed in Zanesville, Ohio after a man let them loose before killing himself.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act received the endorsement of over 60 law enforcement organizations, zoos, animal sanctuaries, and animal welfare and environmental organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriff Association, the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Animal Wellness Action.
“Nine years ago, in Zanesville Ohio, we witnessed the horrific consequences of a private individual possessing big cats and other dangerous wild animals,” said Angela Grimes, CEO of Born Free USA. “The result was a national tragedy not only for the owner and the animals but also for local law enforcement who were forced to quickly handle the situation without proper knowledge or resources.”
“Whether it’s Joe Exotic, Doc Antle or Joe Blow doing it, it makes no sense to permit private individuals to keep big cats captive for pleasure or profit,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act by the U.S. House will help end the public safety hazards associated with private ownership, prohibit public contact based on snatching infant cubs from their mothers for ‘pay to play’ and selfie-taking operations, and cripple the shady networks that that put these endangered animals at risk of being killed for the wildlife products trade. Now it’s up to the U.S. Senate to pass the bill and put the cruelty depicted in ‘Tiger King’ on the trash heap of history where it belongs.”