Legislation would protect Mississippians from dangerous big cats and help conserve species in the wild
— Marty Irby, Executive Director of Animal Wellness Action
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, USA, Aug. 3, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — With support from national law enforcement, animal welfare, conservation and traditional zoo communities, the House of Representatives of United States overwhelmingly passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act, HR 263, on Friday by a vote of 278 to 134. HR 263 was introduced by bipartisan Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Mike Quigley, R-Ill., and was actively supported on the floor by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, who voted for the measure and Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Gulfport. who voted in favor of the bill and also co-sponsored the measure.
“Breeders who pump countless big cats for petting are worse than puppy suckers, placing unfunded mandates on animal rescues that must clean up their mess and care for these majestic creatures once they are too big to exploit,” Marty said. Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. “We commend Reps. Bennie Thompson and Steven Palazzo for supporting the Big Cat Public Safety Act that will help protect suburban families and children from dangerous big cats.”
The bill builds on the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, passed unanimously in 2003, which sought to ban the trade in big cats as pets. This original measure had a drafting flaw, and the Big Cat Public Safety Act seeks to correct this problem and prohibit the breeding of big cats for the pet trade or for commercial petting of cubs.
The bill was introduced long before the salacious reality series “Tiger King,” but that series put the issue of private ownership of tigers and lions on America’s radar screen. NBC’s streaming platform Peacock TV also featured the bill on its “Joe vs. Carole” series, released in March.
The police have swung in force behind the bill.
“I have experienced the worst-case scenario first hand, and it is a heartbreaking experience to think of the tigers, lions and other big cats lurking near our homes and schools,” the sheriff said. Matt Lutz of Zanesville, Ohio, whose office was forced to respond to a mass release of tigers, lions and other animals into his community more than a decade ago.
Instead of nearly 60 Cub Petting operations just 10 or 15 years ago, there are now perhaps two or three commercial Cub Petting outfits in the United States. Almost all of the Cubs featured in “Tiger King” are incarcerated, have had their animals seized, or face prosecution.
-Joe Exotic is serving 21 years in federal prison on 17 wildlife-related charges plus murder-for-hire charges
-Jeff Lowe, who took over Joe Exotic’s GW Zoo and intended to open a cub petting operation in far eastern Oklahoma, had his operation raided by federal authorities, who filed civil charges against him. Lowe’s animals were confiscated and placed in sanctuaries.
-Tim Stark, another prominent Tiger King “star,” had his animals confiscated by the state of Indiana for multiple animal-related violations and non-profit operations. He fled the state after a criminal charge was filed and was arrested in New York.
-Bhagavan “Doc” Antle was arrested for money laundering. He also faces charges from the state of Virginia on 15 counts of wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty.
Tigers and lions bred for the pet trade or roadside attractions never lead a good life. They usually live in substandard conditions and in almost all cases their lives end tragically. We reduce these remarkable beasts to the shadow of their former selves in ramshackle menageries by roadsides or in backyards or basements. People who acquire animals on impulse or for profit almost always abandon them because they cannot be safely managed by people without sufficient resources or professional staff.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., led efforts to block the bill, disparaging the very idea of putting the bill to a vote, but then suggesting the Department of Agriculture should handle the issue . The USDA is uniquely ill-equipped to handle the trade in endangered lions and tigers.
HR 263 is supported by the National Sheriffs Association, state sheriffs associations across the country, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Animal Care and Control Association, and countless other agencies and organizations. A related Senate bill, S. 1210, has nearly 50 co-sponsors.
Animal Wellness Action (Action) is a Washington, DC-based 501(c)(4) organization whose mission is to help animals by promoting legal standards prohibiting cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of pets, farm animals and wildlife. We advocate for policies to end dog and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to combat factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we encourage good public policies and work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we need to elect good legislators, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our problems and which don’t. We believe that helping animals helps us all.
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Carole Baskin and Marty Irby talk about the Big Cat Public Safety Act on Capitol Hill