Carper, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Ban Private Ownership of Big Cats

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), introduced the Big Cat Public Safety Act to protect public safety and improve animal welfare. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation prohibits the ownership of big cats like lions and tigers and makes it illegal for exhibitors to allow public contact with cubs.

“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 Chairman 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.”

Private ownership of big cats raises significant public safety, animal welfare, and conservation concerns. It is estimated that thousands of big cats—including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, and cougars—are privately owned and held captive in insecure and unsafe conditions. Cub-handling attractions and petting zoos cause irreparable harm to the cubs, which are often separated from their mothers at an extremely young age, and pose a danger to humans, who may be bitten or scratched. There have been more than 700 incidents in the United States involving big cats, including hundreds of human injuries, maulings, and deaths.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act would prohibit the possession of big cats by unlicensed individuals. This bill also restricts direct contact between the public and big cats, including cubs.

The legislation is endorsed by numerous animal welfare, conservation, and law enforcement organizations, including the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, National Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Animal Welfare Institute, International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Humane Society Legislative Fund, The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, World Wildlife Fund, Endangered Species Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Big Cat Rescue, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

A similar version of the bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in January by U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).