Two years after the Netflix true-crime documentary “Tiger King” took the nation by storm, Congress has passed a bill that will hamper and ultimately end the practice of owning, breeding and trading big cats among unaccredited hobbyists.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act passed through the United States Senate with unanimous support Tuesday and passed the House of Representatives with about a 2-to-1 majority earlier this year.
The bill is now headed to President Joe Biden’s desk and he is expected to sign it.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Illinois) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut).
Blumenthal released a statement Tuesday that said the passage of the bill will protect both the wild animals that the bill is named for, but also members of the community, including first responders.
“The Big Cat Public Safety Act will end the horrific exploitation of big cats and bolster public safety. These beautiful but powerful predators deserve to live in the wild, not be kept in captivity for people’s entertainment—even as cubs,” Blumenthal wrote. “I’m thrilled that, after a groundswell of public and bipartisan support, this bill I’ve long advocated for will become law.”
Quigley said he had been working on the bill for several years and was relieved that it is one step closer to becoming law.
“Over the years, the world has seen the dangers of owning big cats, not just for the animals themselves but for the communities in which they are kept. When these big cats escape, first responders are put in immense danger,” Quigley said. “My legislation will bring an end to housing big cats in inhumane, unsafe conditions and will keep neighborhoods and law enforcement safe.”
The bill received bipartisan support as the authors attempted to strike a balance between animal advocates and longtime big cat owners and breeders.
Backyard breeders who own cats who were born before the legislation is passed will be grandfathered in and won’t have to surrender their animals, but they will be required to register the animal. They are also not allowed to offer direct public contact with the animal or breed and sell any big cats.
Charging members of the public to pet and play with big cat cubs was a major moneymaker for big cat owners.
The passage likely brings an end to the highway zoos featured in the Netflix documentary that led to many in the media referring to the Big Cat Public Safety Act as the “Tiger King” bill or the “Joe Exotic” bill.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, was the subject of the first season of “Tiger King.” He is currently incarcerated and serving a 22-year sentence for attempting to hire a hitman to kill his adversary, Carole Baskin.
Baskin, who runs a big cat sanctuary in Florida, has been an ardent supporter of legislation that outlaws the unaccredited zoos, petting events and breeding activities featured in both seasons of the Netflix documentary series.
Baskin’s sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue, posted a message on social media praising its passage.