Press Release

Big Cat Public Safety Act Reintroduced in Senate

Bill aims to help end the rampant abuse of tigers and other big cats in captivity by banning private possession

Contact: media@aldf.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Richard Burr (R-NC) reintroduced the Big Cat Public Safety Act in the U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives voted 272 to 114 to pass the same bill in December. Endorsed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the bill prohibits the private possession of big cats and makes it illegal for exhibitors to allow direct contact with cubs.  

In the spring of 2020, the Animal Legal Defense Fund teamed up with Blackfish Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite to launch an online petition urging Congress to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act on this issue.  

“Allowing untrained people to maintain big cats in their homes leaves these animals vulnerable to significant abuse and neglect,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “It also threatens public safety — forcing ill-equipped first responders to handle situations where animals like tigers and lions have escaped. There’s tremendous momentum behind the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and Congress should move swiftly to end the private possession of big cats in the U.S.” 

“This bipartisan measure would help stop exploitation of big cats like tigers and lions, and reduce safety risks,” said Blumenthal. “My Big Cat Public Safety Act would prohibit private ownership of these beautiful but powerful predators, which deserve to live in the wild. They should never be pets, even as cubs, kept in captivity dangerously for entertainment. I’m thankful for the groundswell of public support for this bill and look forward to working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to ensure it becomes law.” 

“Big cats like lions, tigers, and cheetahs belong in their natural habitats, not in the hands of private owners where they are too often subject to cruelty or improper care,” said Collins. “Our bipartisan bill would prohibit the private ownership of big cats, which threatens the safety of the animals and the public and harms conservation efforts. I have long advocated for policies that improve the welfare of animals, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.”  

“I’m pleased to join Senators Blumenthal, Burr, and Collins in introducing the Big Cat Public Safety Act to address the treatment of privately-owned tigers and other big cats in our country,” said Carper. “This legislation is a win-win. It would prevent big cats from living in inhumane conditions and protect the public from the safety implications of these beautiful creatures being kept as pets.” 

Dozens of Hollywood stars signed onto the online petition, including Kate Mara, Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Edie Falco, Iggy Pop, Ireland Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Ruby Rose, Paul Wesley, Christian Serratos, Nikki Reed, Ian Somerhalder, Teresa Palmer, Glenn Close, Anjelica Huston, Justin Theroux, Christopher Walken, Mena Suvari, Steve Aoki, Alan Cumming, Ed Begley, Alison Pill, Jane Lynch, Olivia Wilde, Kate del Castillo, Charlotte Ross, Kristin Bauer, Sarah Silverman, Whitney Cummings, Jenny Slate, and Jackson Galaxy. 

While some states have restricted or banned the private possession of certain wild animals, other states have virtually no regulations, leaving big cats vulnerable to abuse. The Big Cat Public Safety Act closes this gap and also makes it illegal for exhibitors, such as circuses and zoos, to allow direct contact with cubs. Some facilities actually encourage visitors to interact with cubs, such as bottle-feeding tiger cubs, for an extra fee, endangering cubs and visitors alike.  

Big cats belong in the wild or, in situations where captive animals can no longer safely be returned to the wild, in reputable sanctuaries. Depriving wild animals of the ability to engage in their natural behaviors, separating them from their newborn cubs, and forcing them into dangerous interactions with humans is both cruel and a recipe for disaster.   

Representatives Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) reintroduced the House version of the bill in January 2021 

United States: Support the Big Cat Public Safety Act

Urge your federal lawmakers to support legislation that would prohibit the private possession of big cats and make it illegal for exhibitors to allow direct contact with cubs.  


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