Big cats may now celebrate after the House passed a measure outlawing the breeding of big cats, such as tigers and lions, by private owners or for profit cub petting operations.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act has been passed, which is being hailed by activists who have long wanted to put an end to the private breeding of exotic animals for use as pets or show animals. The 2003 Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which forbade the selling and exchange of big cats as pets, will be patched up by the new law. With the exception of zoos, sanctuaries, and institutions, the new resolution outlaws the breeding and ownership of tigers, lions, leopards, and panthers privately.

259 lawmakers, including 52 Republicans, cosponsored the bill that was introduced by Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), and it was passed by a vote of 278 to 134. Several animal welfare organizations issued a united statement on Monday pleading with legislators to complete the task and fill the gaps.

Rep. Ral M. Grijalva, the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement to Rolling Stone that “Far too often, the people who own and breed lions, tigers, and other wild cats aren’t doing it out of a love for animals; they’re doing it out of a knowledge that they can make a quick buck with photo ops and other problematic tourist traps.” According to Grijalva, operators of these enterprises provide the animals caught in these operations with the poorest treatment and the lowest level of safety, endangering both these animals and people.

Grijalva urged his colleagues in the Senate to get these reasonable protections for these animals and ourselves into law, saying, “I’m glad to see so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle appreciate the need of this legislation.”

Advocates for animal welfare think that restrictions on the breeding, possession, and sale of exotic animals are essential for both the protection of public safety and the welfare of the animals. All kinds of exotic animals owned privately have led to deaths, maulings, and escapes that frequently need law authorities to put the animal to sleep. Numerous animals, including wolves, bears, lions, tigers, monkeys, and bears, were purposefully freed from a private zoo in Zanesville, Ohio, in 2011. 48 of the animals were subsequently put to death by law enforcement.

The Big Cat Safety Act prohibits the reproduction of large exotic cat species, although it does not mandate that the animals’ current private owners surrender them. If current owners register with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they will be permitted to keep their pets.

The National Sheriffs Association supported the legislation, and according to Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C., it will help law enforcement agencies spot abuse, stop illegal breeding and trade operations, and be better prepared for situations where dangerous animals may be present. We would prefer that those cats weren’t found in private residences and neighborhoods, according to Irby.

Rep. Quigley, a co-sponsor of the bill, claims that the legislation’s primary concern is public safety. These aren’t pets; they’re predators. Longtime supporters of legislation to keep hazardous wild animals out of communities and lessen risks to first responders and the animals themselves include law enforcement.

The 2020 Netflix series Tiger King shed light on widespread animal abuse occurring within the exoctic animal industry, including the mass breeding of large cats like lions and tigers for commercial purposes, despite the fact that the subject of animal welfare has a lengthy legal history.

The main character of Tiger King Joe Exotic, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, possessed about 200 large breed cats at the height of his business endeavors. Exotic had to manage dozens, if not hundreds, of the enormous adult cats that his business invariably produced and frequently sold them illegally to private purchasers. Exotic bred large cats and their hybrids for profitable cub petting displays. The show highlighted the risks associated with working with animals, including the mauling of one worker who ultimately lost their hand and incidents when cats bit Exotic and other staff members who interacted with the animals.

Exotic was ultimately convicted of 17 counts of animal mistreatment and two counts of attempted murder-for-hire in connection with a scheme to assassinate Carole Baskin, the owner of the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary. Bhagavan Doc Antle and other people who appeared in the documentary have also been detained and accused of wildlife trafficking and animal abuse (for viewers: the guy with all the wives).

Irby believes that the program contributed to the public’s increased awareness of big-cat enthusiasts’ work. According to Irby, Tiger King had a major role in this measure receiving the attention it required. We’ve gained so much momentum, and we’ve had wonderful conversations with people who are usually not on our side.

The bill now faces its next obstacle in the Senate after winning in the House. Big cat ownership by private individuals has long been permitted under loose legislation, according to Quigley. These inhumane treatment of the animals is unacceptable. I’m hoping that my Senate colleagues will move quickly to take up this measure so that we can benefit communities around the nation and free these animals from a life of confinement and restraint.

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