Energy & Environment

House approves bill banning big cat ownership after Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’


The U.S. House passed a bill that prohibits people from owning big cats like lions and tigers, after Netflix released the documentary series “Tiger King.”

The chamber voted 272-114 to pass the measure, which also makes it illegal for exhibitors to allow people to touch cubs, late Thursday. 

The bill appears in the documentary and was backed by Carole Baskin, the nemesis of the show’s star Joe Exotic, and her husband Howard Baskin. 

On the same day that the bill passed, a volunteer was injured at Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue after being attacked by a tiger. 

Baskin told The Hill in an email that the volunteer saw a door leading to the tiger was “clipped shut” which is the rescue’s signal “NOT to open a gate without the coordinator coming to assist.”

She said that the volunteer “said she just wasn’t thinking when she reached in to un clip it” and that the tiger “grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder.”

“The fact that, despite our intense safety protocols and excellent record of safety, an injury like this can occur just confirms the inherent danger in dealing with these animals and why we need the Big Cat Public Safety Act to eliminate having them untracked in backyards around the country and ending up in sanctuaries,” Baskin added. 

The news comes after the Department of Justice in November filed a complaint against Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and Tiger King LLC, alleging that the businesses had violated the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act.

Exotic had previously owned the animal park, and it was one of the main animal attractions featured in “Tiger King” where tourists could view tigers and lions and play with big cat cubs. 

Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe, the now-owners of the animal park, assumed ownership of the business after Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being convicted of trying to hire a man to kill Baskin. 

The legislation heads next to the Senate. In the House vote, the passage was bipartisan, though it was supported by all Democrats who voted and just 48 Republicans. 

It was sponsored by Reps. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). 

“Big cats are wild animals that simply do not belong in private homes, backyards, or shoddy roadside zoos,” Quigley said in a statement. “Too often, law enforcement and first responders are the ones who end up in danger from these animals and … we owe it to them to limit the additional dangers they face on the job.”

The legislation also received praise from the Humane Society of the United States, with the group’s president and CEO, Kitty Block, saying that the legislation would “put an end to this cycle of misery, abuse, and danger once and for all.”

Block said the group estimates that there are hundreds of tigers in the U.S. that are “kept as pets and money-making props by roadside zoos, pseudo-sanctuaries and cub-petting operations.”

–Updated 10:48 a.m.

Tags Big Cat Rescue Brian Fitzpatrick lions Mike Quigley tiger king Tigers

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