Dangerous incidents underscore need for the Big Cat Public Safety Act

The absence of consistent regulation of big cats in captivity reinforces the need for passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act.This fall has brought sobering reminders of the need to protect both animals and people from the risks of captive big cat ownership.

In late October, news broke that a Florida animal exhibitor had been attacked by a tiger while “performing” at a fair. Although initial reports downplayed the seriousness of the incident, shocking footage released by an onlooker told a different story. The tiger handler was clawed and dragged; the tiger was brutally beaten as children looked on. Sadly, such occurrences are commonplace when big cats are kept in private hands and used as entertainment props. 

In November, a Houston woman who kept tigers and other exotic “pets” in her home was charged with child endangerment after law enforcement officers learned that she regularly exposed her teenage daughter to these dangerous animals. Alarmingly, she held permits for possession of the tigers because this type of irresponsible private ownership is legal in Texas—and in many other states across the US.

No one was hurt in this particular case, but news reports note that even the landlord was unaware that the animals were on-site. The big cats’ owner put first responders, neighbors, her daughter and the public at risk, not to mention the animals themselves. What would have happened had a tiger escaped and attacked someone? What about the tigers and other animals—where will they go and who will provide for their lifetime care? The absence of consistent regulation leaves these critical questions unanswered, and reinforces the need for passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

October brought a number of announcements that underscore the public’s increasing awareness of the captive big cats crisis and interest in bringing it to an ends. On the fifth anniversary of the release of dozens of animals in Zanesville, Ohio, calls intensified for stronger policies restricting big cat ownership across the nation. New York’s City Council is considering a ban on the use of these animals in entertainment, and celebrities like IFAW ambassador Minka Kelly have begun to speak out against selfish selfies, rejecting exploitative “tiger selfies” and cruel cub handling in favor of advocacy and compassion for big cats.

With your support, IFAW will continue to fight the abuse of big cats both in the US and abroad. Please join us in urging Congress to enact the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 3546/S. 2541). Thank you.


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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.
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Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
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Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
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Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
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Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
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Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
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Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
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