New York prohibits private possession of big cats. Under New York law, it is unlawful to possess a wild animal as a pet. However, any person who possessed a big cat at the time the law came into effect in 2004 may continue possession. Some institutions may possess big cats, including zoos, public exhibitors, USDA-licensed research facilities, state universities and private colleges working with wild animals, state agencies working with wild animals, wildlife rehabilitators, and wildlife sanctuaries may possess big cats. New York State also bans direct contact between the public and big cats.