Big Cat Public Safety Act: US Senate unanimously passes Bill

7 December 2022


Born Free welcomes the passing of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which received unanimous consent in the US Senate, to restrict the private ownership of big cats like lions and tigers.
A photo of two lion cubs in captivity.

Image: © ArishaRay (Getty Images)

Since 2012, our colleagues at Born Free USA have been working tirelessly on advocating this Bill and ensuring that it made it through the legislative process. Ten years on, we are delighted that this long awaited Bill will soon become law.

The scale of private ownership of big cats in the USA is staggering. There are thought to be as many as 10,000 tigers in captivity in the USA, more than double the number that remain in the wild. Many other big cats, including lions, leopards, jaguars and pumas, also languish in a variety of captive situations. The animals are often used for commercial activities such as cub petting, photo opportunities or shows. Many end up in roadside zoos or private homes, often enduring appalling conditions and abuse. The Act would also prevent big cats, especially cubs, being petted by the public.

The Bill now requires President Joe Biden’s signature to come into law.

Not only does the private ownership of big cats lead to immense animal suffering, it also compromises the safety of the public and the owners of the animals. There are also potential links between such ownership and animals or products derived from them entering into the illegal wildlife trade, creating a demand which can have potential knock on impacts on the conservation of wild populations.

While the USA is progressing towards an end to the private ownership of big cats, and the European Union considers an EU-wide “positive list” of animals that can be kept, some other countries around the world still legally permit the keeping of big cats, including the UK! In 2020, Born Free revealed that 61 big cats were being kept by private individuals in Great Britain under Dangerous Wild Animals licences obtained through local authorities. In total, nearly 4,000 dangerous wild animals were being held under such licences.

Chris Lewis, Born Free’s Captivity Research Officer, said, “With countries across the world adopting progressive legislation when it comes to restricting wild animal ownership, the UK continues to languish behind, reliant on legislation which is almost 50 years old and unable to keep up with the modern day. Legislation to restrict the keeping of primates stagnates in Parliament within the stalled Kept Animals Bill. The Government frequently acknowledges the UK is a nation of animal lovers. It is time legislation reflected that.”

You can help support our work to end the captive exploitation of big cats by adopting King, a lion rescued from the illegal exotic pet trade.