ACTION NEEDED: USDA again considering ban on big cat cub handling

Urge USDA to bring an end to direct contact with dangerous animals, including big cats. After years of encouragement from IFAW and our partners, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is once again considering a ban on public contact with captive big cats and other dangerous animals. 

And the agency is looking for the public to comment. This exciting announcement—consistent with  recent agency action and proposed federal legislation—could be the beginning of a sea change in the treatment of captive exotic animals in the US.  

In 2012, a coalition of animal advocacy groups petitioned USDA to prohibit exhibitors from allowing direct contact with dangerous animals. The Department collected comments in 2013, but did not proceed with rulemaking.

By reopening the comment period, USDA is signalling that it might take action to better protect captive wildlife.

Prohibiting direct contact with dangerous wild animals, including big cats, would protect both animals and the public.

Big cats and other animals that are used for public contact operations are often prematurely separated from their mothers, punished for exhibiting natural behaviours, deprived of proper nutrition and veterinary care, and kept in cramped and unsanitary conditions. Direct contact displays involving infant animals like tiger cubs drive incessant breeding and, once cubs grow larger and lose much of their commercial value, they may enter the exotic pet trade, become displays at other unqualified roadside zoos, or be warehoused or otherwise disposed of.

Banning public contact would significantly reduce the incentives for this excessive breeding and the accompanying problems. 

The public would benefit from a ban as well; people risk serious injury and exposure to zoonotic disease when engaging in direct contact with wild animals. A direct contact prohibition would also protect first responders (particularly police officers) who must risk their lives when a dangerous incident involving a big cat or other captive wild animal occurs.

Well-meaning consumers who patronize these businesses are often misled with respect to the behaviour and biology of the animals, as well as the treatment that those animals receive and their “conservation” value.

READ: Resist the temptation: there is no need whatsoever to play with big cat cubs

Please join us —as well as law enforcement officers and other first responders, celebrities, and students—in standing up against the cruel cub handling industry and other displays that exploit dangerous animals.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime