Bipartisan Senate group announces support for ban on big cat ownership
A bipartisan group of senators on Monday unveiled a bill that would ban private ownership of big cats, and make it illegal for exhibitors to allow public contact with cubs.
The legislation, named the “Big Cat Public Safety Act,” was introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to “protect public safety and improve animal welfare,” according to a statement from the lawmakers.
Specifically, the bill aims to prohibit the possession of big cats, like lions and tigers, by unlicensed individuals, and restrict direct contact between the public and big cats, including cubs.
The senators wrote that private ownership of big cats “raises significant public safety, animal welfare, and conservation concerns,” adding that thousands of big cats are estimated to be living in insecure and unsafe conditions.
The group continued, writing that cub-handling attractions and petting zoos cause “irreparable harm” to the animals, which are often separated from their mothers at an extremely young age.
Additionally, the lawmakers said the animals pose a danger to humans, who may be bitten or scratched.
According to the senators, there have been more than 700 incidents in the U.S. “involving big cats,” including human injuries, maulings and deaths.
“This bipartisan measure would help stop exploitation of big cats like tigers and lions, and reduce safety risks,” Blumenthal said in a statement.
In announcing the bill, the group mentioned the Netflix series “Tiger King,” which they said, “greatly raised public awareness of the rampant animal welfare abuses and public safety issues involved in private ownership of big cats.”
The House passed a similar bill in December, which would also prohibit people from owning big cats, and make it illegal for exhibitors to allow people to touch cubs.
The legislation passed in a bipartisan 272-114 vote.
Carole Baskin and Howard Baskin, two subjects in the Netflix series, supported the bill.
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