The cub-petting industry, which gained nationwide infamy with the sensational 2020 Netflix documentary, “Tiger King,” is now illegal in the United States.
President Biden on Tuesday signed the Big Cat Public Safety Act into law, which bans the private ownership of lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any cross-species hybrids of those animals. It makes the practice of cub-petting illegal and prohibits the breeding of big cats for private possession. It also prohibits members of the public from having close contact with big cats, outlawing the practice of taking selfies next to cubs, for instance.
Federally licensed animal sanctuaries or zoos may still exhibit big cats. There is also a grandfather clause that permits individuals who currently possess a big cat to keep them as long as the animal is registered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within 180 days.
Violators could face a maximum $20,000 fine and/or up to five years in jail for each offense.
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“Over four years of work have finally led to this moment. I am grateful to all those who have believed in the importance of this bill and who have been dedicated to seeing it become law,” said bill sponsor Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill. “This legislation will not only help end the cruel and inhumane cub petting industry, it will also make our communities safer.”
A press release from Quigley’s office credited “Tiger King” with raising public awareness of “the miserable conditions thousands of tigers, lions, leopards, and pumas are kept in by irresponsible owners,” which led to passage of his bill.
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Animal rights activists applauded the legislation, including Big Cat Rescue, the accredited non-profit animal sanctuary founded by “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
“Now that President Joe Biden has signed the Big Cat Public Safety Act into law, ‘Tiger Kings’ can no longer cash in on the suffering of big-cat cubs removed from their caged mothers. This law caps off years of PETA legal actions that resulted in the rescue of 75 big cats, took down Tiger King villains Tim Stark and Jeff Lowe, and established that big-cat cub petting violates the Endangered Species Act,” said Brittany Peet, PETA Foundation General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement.
“This bill has been the number one goal of my 30 years of advocacy to stop the mistreatment of big cats. This has been particularly true in the last 20 years during which my husband Howard Baskin joined me and took over managing our legislative efforts,” Baskin said earlier this month after the bill unanimously passed the Senate.
“The passage of the bill is the successful culmination of many years of battling against narcissistic, abusive, dangerous men who dominated this cruel trade and did everything they could to stop its passage, including wanting to intimidate, discredit, and even kill me,” she added.
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Baskin visited Capitol Hill several times as the bill made its way through the legislative process, meeting with several lawmakers and key staff.
Fox News’ Haley Chi-Sing contributed to this report.