The Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263) passed the House today 278 to 134 and the white house said if the companion Senate bill (S 1210) passes the president will sign it into law.
The bill amends the Captive Wildlife Safety Act to prohibit the possession of tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrid of these species by private individuals. This prohibition is focused on people who feel the need to own an exotic cat, collectors who warehouse the cats for mail order fund raising, celebrities and hoarders. These owners are grandfathered in and are required to register their animals with the US Fish and Wildlife to ensure first responders and animal control officers are aware of the presence of such animals in their communities. They will be able to keep their cats but can no longer can acquire, sell, or breed.
They do have the option of applying to the USDA for and Exhibitors license, which puts them into the Roadside Zoo category, where they will be able to breed but will be subjection to USDA inspections.
This bill also restricts direct contact with the public. The intent of this provision is to prohibit “pay to pet” operations which include petting, feeding, leash walking, running, and swimming with the cubs. Cub handling is the primary revenue source for Roadside Zoos that engage in this practice.
The bill exempts sanctuaries, universities, and AZA zoos.
At the request of the Congressional Budget office, Tigers in America provided the financials for the breeding and cub petting business to calculate the impact of this Act before it proceeded to the floor for a vote.
A prior version of this bill in 2020 made it through the House but never came of for a vote in the Senate. Maybe this time it will. Keep your paws crossed.