The Truth Behind “The Big Cat Public Safety Act” HR 3546

For those of you who may not have heard yet, a piece of legislation deceptively called “The Big Cat Public Safety Act” has been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives.

On the surface this bill claims to help crack down on the  supposed “illicit interstate trade of protected wildlife species and keep the public safe from unqualified big cat owners”. The authors of this bill specifically exempted three types of big cat owners from this bill. These are AZA zoos, sanctuaries, and traveling circuses. In order to understand why these exemptions are in place it’s important to know where this bill originated. This bill was proposed and authored by Big Cat Rescue, a questionable animal rights sanctuary in Florida that has a 20 year stated plan that will eliminate all big cats from captivity including those in AZA zoos.

Big Cat Rescue is a pragmatic organization, that understands the nuances of politics. BCR knows that if the bill did not exempt AZA zoos, it would be dead in the water. On their Facebook page when BCR was questioned why circuses were exempt from this bill they said “They are vocal opponents who know how to play the game, and who donate heavily to make sure bills that protect wild animals don’t get passed. There are only 68 tigers in circus acts in the U.S. so we are trying to protects thousands of big cats first and then will turn our attention to the last 68”.

Clearly the organizations backing this terrible bill want a total ban on all animals in human care and they are just biding their time.

The most important information for you to know about this bill is that it will forever hurt captive conservation of rare and endangered big cat species. For example the country’s largest breeding groups of the highly endangered Snow Leopard and threatened Clouded Leopard are at private non AZA zoos. If this bill passes those animals will no longer be able to be used for captive breeding programs. Many rare and endangered cat species are responsibly bred by USDA licensed and or ZAA accredited private facilities. The authors of this bill would have you believe that the only true conservation work is done by AZA zoos but that simply is not true. Many private breeding programs are working with some of the worlds most rare and endangered cats. The same negative outcomes will befall all private zoos and USDA breeders who work with cheetahs, tigers, lions, etc.

Here’s an interesting fact for you, Do you enjoy seeing baby Snow Leopards and other big cats on morning programs or late night tv shows with Jack Hannah and other tv animal presenters? Well it turns out that many of those cats are born in private facilities, not AZA zoos. So you can say goodbye to tv appearances by baby big cats that raise the public’s awareness of the dangers facing these amazing creatures in the wild.

The truth is that the exotic animal industry is heavily regulated, regardless of what you may have been told. The United States Department of Agriculture issues licenses to breeders and exhibitors of big cats. Everyone who raises big cats or exhibits cats is required to have this license and submit to, at will unannounced inspections. Every zoo and sanctuary that is open to the public is subject to the rules of USDA. An AZA facility holds the same USDA license as a private zoo, which is also the same type of license that a “sanctuary” like Big Cat Rescue has.

If there are a few bad facilities out there, then those issues should be dealt with independently and the entire industry should not be punished. I will be posting more information about this bill and what you can do to help fight back against this erroneous piece of legislation. Remember that even if you don’t own or raise big cats, this bill effects you. The more momentum the animal rights movement picks up and the more laws they pass, the time will come in the not so distant future, where you will be told you can’t raise your elephants, primates, parrots, horses, or even dogs and cats. This bill has the potential to affect everyone, lets do something to stop it!

—Gavin Livingston The Unlikely Conservationist