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U.S. Congress Seeks Legislation for Big Cats

By Paul Darin
Epoch Times Staff
Created: October 7, 2012 Last Updated: October 11, 2012
Related articles: United States » National News
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Lions rescued from poor circus conditions in Panama lie at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo. Legislation has been proposed that would prohibit the private possession and breeding of big cats in the United States. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Lions rescued from poor circus conditions in Panama lie at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo. Legislation has been proposed that would prohibit the private possession and breeding of big cats in the United States. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Big cats, including native mountain lions and cougars, as well as nonnative African lions and tigers, are a serious problem and a growing political issue in the United States. The problem for native cats is their ever-expanding migratory patterns further east, but the larger issue is the breeding and captivity of African big cats, as well as other large animals by amateur or noncommercial enthusiasts.

This issue has become so paramount that the U.S. Congress is currently seeking legislation to ban noncommercial breeding and captivity of big cats altogether. 

In Africa, big cat numbers are dwindling due to poaching, overhunting, and a disappearing habitat. However, there are more captive tigers in the United States than there are wild tigers, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Across the United States, many big cat enthusiasts are purchasing and breeding lions, tigers, bears, and other large or exotic animals without proper education, training, or resources. Many big cats housed by amateurs face poor living conditions including malnourishment, maltreatment, overbreeding, unsafe public interaction, and death.

“We’ve got a situation that’s spiraling out of control, and dead tigers are piling up,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS CEO and president, in a HSUS undercover investigation video.

Pacelle and an unidentified undercover investigator spoke out on behalf of the HSUS and investigated the G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Oklahoma, where five tigers died within four months and unsafe public interactions with infant big cats and smaller-sized big cats were taking place. 

However, all of that may change with the passage of the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (HR 4122), introduced in March 2012 by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), and the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (SB 3547), introduced in September 2012 by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). 

If passed, the bills would prohibit the private possession and breeding of big cats. Only zoos, licensed sanctuaries, and conservatories would be allowed to own and breed large cats. Violators could face jail time up to five years and fines up to $20,000; however, the bill includes a grandfather clause for animals born prior to the bill becoming a law.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/darlynne.downey Darlynne Downey

    There are not enough zoos and sanctuaries to maintain a decent gene pool for these animals. As mentioned in the article, there are more tigers in captivity in the US than in the wild. These tigers are mostly in private hands, and if removed from the gene pool by this legislation, the species will rapidly become extinct. Habitat for the big cats is rapidly disappearing due to human population encroachment. If we want our descendants to be able to see live tigers, responsible private ownership and breeding must be encouraged.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Kirby/1181561666 Thomas Kirby

      The only real chance for their survival is to make them pets. The extremists want to kill off a lot of humans to make room, and they force people who live in India and Africa to let them run around loose, so if we want it we should risk our lives for it. This “safety” crap is meant to destroy the animals and injure our spirits.


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