Tennessee prohibits private ownership of most big cats. Lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, and cougars are classified as Class I Wildlife under Tennessee law because they are inherently dangerous to humans. Class I Wildlife ownership is limited to zoos, circuses, commercial breeders with a Commercial Propagator Permit, and individuals who possessed the big cat prior to June 25, 1991 and hold a Personal Possession Permit. However, bobcats and hybrids are classified as Class III Wildlife under Tennessee law and may be privately possessed without a permit.

The Personal Possession Permit requires permit holders be at least twenty-one years of age with two years of experience handling Class I animals. The permit holder must have a recapture plan and uphold facility requirements like either living on site or employing a full-time onsite caretaker, and prohibiting direct contact between the public and the big cat.