Bill Aims to Decrease Number of Captive Tigers in US
A new bill supported by animal rights activists is aiming to put restrictions on private ownership of tigers and other big cats in the United States to protect them from abuse, neglect and keep them where they should be: in the wild.
“There is no amount of space, no amount of enrichment, no amount of love that will provide an exotic cat with any semblance of existence they were designed to master,” says Carole Baskin, founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, a sanctuary for big cats in Tampa, FL. “There is no good way to keep a wild cat in a cage. They are hardwired to be free.”
It is for that very reason that Baskin is currently pushing a new bill to be approved by congress that would effectively ban private ownership of lions, tigers, bobcats and other large felines in America.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act was introduced in Congress last month and would allow only zoos certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, some sanctuaries, universities, wildlife rehabilitators and some traveling circuses to keep and breed big cats. That would be a big change from the situation for wild cats today, where little restrictions exist preventing private owners from purchasing and keeping them.
“In many jurisdictions, people can legally keep a tiger on their property without reporting it to local officials or neighbors,” reported the World Wildlife Fund last year. “In some states, it is easier to buy a tiger than to adopt a dog from a local animal shelter.”
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are between 5,000 and 7,000 tigers in captivity in the United States, significantly more than the 3,200 estimated to remain in the wild. For lions, there is no official record or census of how many or where they are in the country but it is estimated that, like tigers, they are in roadside zoos, kept as pets, and some are even part of the exotic meat trade.
Baskin is hopeful that the recent uproar about Cecil’s death will raise awareness and concern from the general public about the safety and well being of felines. The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands on Tuesday, October 6, and Baskin encourages anyone supporting it to call their Congressmen and tell them how important it is to keep these wild animals from captivity.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock