The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act

In February 2012, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4122, the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act,” in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill would prohibit breeding and private possession of big cats and would ensure that lions, tigers and other dangerous big cats do not threaten public safety, diminish global big cat conservation efforts, or live in deplorable or abusive conditions.

Under the new bill, anyone who currently possesses tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, and lion/tiger hybrids would be required to register their animals with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to keep them – but they couldn’t breed, sell, or acquire any new animals.

From there, the bill would make it illegal to keep a big cat except at adequate facilities such as accredited zoos and certain wildlife sanctuaries where they can properly cared for, and would only allow breeding at accredited zoos, along with some research or educational institutions.

The proposed legislation is being supported by a number of animal welfare and wildlife conservation groups including the International Fund for Animal Welfare, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Born Free USA, Big Cat Rescue, the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF), Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the ROAR Foundation and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Ohio votes for a bill

In April 2012, the Ohio Senate voted 30-1 in favor of a bill aimed at addressing the problem of unregulated big cats and other dangerous animals throughout the state. The bill would not totally ban the ownership of big cats as pets, which is what a statewide task force formed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich recommended following the tragic events in Zanesville during which a suicidal owner released 49 wild animals—39 of them big cats.

The bill would, however, better regulate current owners and prohibit many big cats from falling into the hands of unscrupulous or ill-prepared owners.  The Ohio House of Representatives must now pass the bill before it can become state law in Ohio.