Throughout the United States, thousands of big cats are sold, traded, and kept in cramped, barren cages as pets or as attractions in roadside zoos that sell interactive experiences to the public. When kept in captivity, these large predatory animals require behavioral enrichment and special diets and veterinary care, as well as spacious natural habitat enclosures that provide them opportunities to exercise and express natural behaviors.
However, big cats kept by unqualified people and transported around the country for exhibition do not benefit from such conditions. Instead, they have been found badly neglected and living in deplorable settings, ranging from junkyards to truck stops to tattoo parlors to empty concrete pools.
Numerous exhibitors have been found to charge the public to pet, feed and take photos with tiger and lion cubs at fairs, festivals and roadside zoos. To be used for public handling, the infants are torn from their mothers shortly after birth and forced to endure rough and excessive public handling. The cubs are deprived of sleep and regular feedings and are physically abused by handlers attempting to keep them under control. After just a few months, these cats get too large for public handling and are often discarded by selling them as pets or warehousing them at roadside zoos or facilities claiming to be sanctuaries.
These situations are not just harmful to the animals and the conservation of these endangered species—they also pose public safety hazards. More than 375 dangerous incidents involving tigers, lions and other big cats have occurred since 1990, resulting in two dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries. Four children lost their lives and dozens of others lost limbs or suffered other traumatic injuries.
In many cases, the animals were shot and killed, often by first responders who are not trained to deal with such situations. The most notable example occurred in Zanesville, Ohio, in 2011 when a private owner released his collection of exotic animals, including 38 big cats, near a populated area. Law enforcement officials risked their lives trying to contain the animals, but ultimately had no choice but to fatally shoot most of the cats for the sake of public safety.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act strengthens existing laws to prohibit interstate sale, possession, and breeding of big cats by unqualified individuals. Your voice is needed to encourage passage of this bill.
Please take a moment to call your U.S. Representative now. Find your legislator's phone number. You can say, "Please support the Big Cat Public Safety Act. This bill will protect big cats by keeping them out of the hands of people who would exploit them or not care for them properly."
After your call, use the form below to send a follow-up message. Editing your message will help it stand out.