The US House of Representatives has passed (278-134) a bill to ban private possession, public contact and increase restrictions on the breeding, trade, and exploitation of big cats.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act (HR263/ S1210), sponsored by Representative Mike Quigley and Senator Richard Blumenthal, now heads to the Senate floor.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) is joined by a variety of celebrities calling on the public to support the bill, which focuses on the private ownership, trade, and breeding of certain species – it is directly aimed at backyard breeders, roadside zoos, cub petting, & photo operations – the ‘Joe Exotics’ in the US.

Captive big cats are frequently declawed, though the practice is prohibited by the USDA since 2005, and often have smashed teeth. Exhibitors rely upon physical abuse, severe confinement, and drugs to put these dangerous species in direct contact with the public, endangering both the animal and humans. This perpetuates the myth that these wild animals can be tamed or exist in close quarters with humans, and current regulations permit tiny, barren, inappropriate caging for these naturally wide-ranging species.

Award-winning songwriter Diane Warren said, “No animal should be caged or have their babies taken from them at birth. We must teach compassion for all living creatures. No true sanctuary would ever keep animals in these shameful and cruel conditions, and no animals should be made to exist purely for human entertainment.”

Actress Alexandra Paul said, “Breeding big cats in captivity is not conservation. Captive breeding will often result in compromised gene pools and unnatural hybrids. It would be disastrous to wild populations if the damaging genetic results of captive in-breeding found their way into the wild gene pool.”

Cubs older than 3-4 months become too big and dangerous for photo ops and cub petting, driving breeding at unnatural rates to constantly supply new cubs for petting and photo ops. After the young cubs grow too large, they may be sold to roadside zoos, or as private ‘pets’. They (or their body parts) may also be trafficked, or they may just disappear altogether. The US does not track this – no one knows how many cubs are bred, traded, die, or what happens to them after they’re no longer used.

Actress Jorja Fox said, “It is heartbreaking to know that these cubs used for photo props are pulled from their mothers, deprived of all that is natural to them, and endure a life of severe confinement, constant travel, overbreeding, and physical abuse. This is why I am joining Animal Defenders International to ask you to please, pick up the phone and call your Senators today, urging them to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act.”

Actress Tonya Kay said, “Kids aren’t learning about big cats in roadside zoos. They’re learning about animal abuse. Roadside zoos are confining the largest of wild animals in tiny cages unable to exhibit any natural or healthy behaviors. The only place to learn respect and appreciation for these dangerous cats is viewing them in the wild. It’s time to end roadside zoos.”

Legislative action is needed to end the suffering of the animals, because these practices harm species conservation efforts, and because failed federal oversight has, for decades, allowed (and continues to allow) this abuse.

Jan Creamer, President of ADI, said, “Animals are not objects of entertainment, and it is disgraceful to continue to allow them to be treated as such. A life of confinement and abuse is no life at all. It is time to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act and put an end to the cub petting and backyard breeding of big cats in the US.”

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