Senate Subcommittee hears testimony in support of Big Cats Public Safety and Protection Act
Last Wednesday, a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing to discuss the Big Cats Public Safety and Protection Act (S. 1381). Although a number of other bills were under consideration during the hearing, which limited the time available to review S. 1381, Senators and witnesses alike expressed their support for this important measure.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate, emphasized that this legislation is a “common sense solution to the serious dangers associated with private ownership of wild animals such as lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards and more.”
He addressed the “utterly inhumane living conditions” to which captive big cats are subjected, and pointed out the associated risks to communities and law enforcement personnel. “No matter what the setting,” he explained, “private ownership of big cats poses gravely serious safety threats for anyone who happens to live in the surrounding community.”
The Senator went on to dispel the myths that have been perpetuated by pro-captivity interests, noting that:
- private ownership and breeding provide no conservation benefit
- that this legislation would not interfere with the work of legitimate sanctuaries and research institutions, and
- that big cats simply cannot be tamed to serve as pets.
Put simply, “they are wild, and people should respect the expertise that is required to deal with them…they should not be allowed to own them.”
Following Sen. Blumenthal’s powerful testimony, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) confirmed that she too would support S. 1381.
Speaking for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Steve Guertin, FWS Deputy Director for Policy, also expressed support for the bill. He noted in written testimony that
“[a]mending the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 by clarifying provisions of the Captive Wildlife Safety Act to prohibit individuals from breeding or possessing prohibited wildlife species would significantly address the current public safety concerns with large cats.”
Countering the opposition, Mr. Guertin went on to state not only that this legislation is necessary, but also that further restrictions might also be appropriate to combat the United States’ captive big cat crisis.
This hearing is an exciting step forward for IFAW's Big Cats in Captivity Campaign.
In addition to raising awareness among members of the Senate committee responsible for legislation governing captive big cats, it provided additional momentum for building co-sponsorship in the Senate and the House.
Visit www.ifaw.org/bigcatadvocates to learn more about IFAW’s work to protect captive big cats.