Protect big cats

Throughout the United States, thousands of big cats are kept in cramped, barren cages as pets or as attractions in roadside zoos and similar poorly run facilities for public contact activities. 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 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.

These situations are not just harmful to the animals -- they also pose public safety hazards. More than 375 dangerous incidents involving tigers, lions and other big cats kept in private hands 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 Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R.1380) strengthens existing laws to prohibit possession of big cats by individuals who do not have USDA licenses and by banning public contact activities. Your voice is needed to encourage passage of this bill.

Please make a brief, polite phone call to your U.S. Representative. Look up your legislator's phone number. You can simply say, "Please support the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R.1380). 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 making your call, submit the form below to send a follow-up message. Be sure to edit your message so it stands out.

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Your Message

Dear Legislator,

As your constituent, I urge you to cosponsor and push for the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R.1380).

Introduced by Representatives Mike Quigley and Brian Fitzpatrick, this legislation would advance endangered species conservation, animal welfare and protect public safety by prohibiting the exotic pet trade in tigers, lions, leopards and other big cat species by unqualified private individuals and by prohibiting facilities from selling interactive experiences with big cats to the public. The bill provides reasonable exemptions for wildlife sanctuaries and exhibitors licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that meet basic standards intended to protect the public and animals.

It is estimated that more tigers are in private hands in the United States than remain in the wild. These animals often do not receive proper veterinary care, nutrition, physical housing or behavioral enrichment, making this an animal welfare issue.

This is also a public safety issue. Improperly maintained captive big cats injure, or even kill, people on a regular basis. Law enforcement officers and other first responders are at particular risk from such animals, which is why the National Sheriffs' Association has endorsed the legislation. Emergency officials and the communities they protect should not be put in harm's way by a private owner's irresponsible decision to keep big cats.

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This action alert is for U.S. residents only. International advocates, please visit Humane Society International for ways you can take action for animals.

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