The US Just Passed ‘Tiger King’ Bill To Ban Private Ownership Of Big Cats
The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban the private ownership of big cats as seen in Netflix’s Tiger King.
Looking back, the streaming platform’s docuseries almost feels like a fever dream. It came right as the pandemic was surging, when people were first working from home, and obsession was fierce.
However, while its popularity and presence in the cultural lexicon has undoubtedly fizzled, momentum has been increasing in new legislation against big cat owners across the country.
As per Roll Call, the House was in favour of the Big Cat Public Safety Act with a 272-114 vote. The bill would see private ownership of tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars and cougars banned.
Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who’s currently serving a 22-year sentence for various animal crimes and a murder-for-hire scheme, wouldn’t feel the effects of the bill too harshly if he was still running Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
While the bill makes it illegal for someone to breed or own big cats without a US Department of Agriculture exhibition license, Exotic had one. However, he would have been forced to stop his controversial practice of allowing visitors to pet cubs. Jeff Lowe closed the zoo earlier this year amid a storm of litigation.
Carol Baskin, of Big Cat Rescue, told USA Today she was ‘thrilled’ with the latest move, after a ‘decades-long effort’ of lobbying alongside her husband. However, while there is some support in the Senate, it’s unlikely to move further with any real speed due to the current pandemic and Donald Trump’s presidency coming to a close.
Senator Ted Cruz criticised the Democrats for prioritising prosecution of Exotic’s practices over other issues, while Utah Republican Rob Bishop said, ‘This bill, contrary to what I’ve been hearing so far, is not about protecting the public from big cats. It is about hurting small, family-run zoos across the country. It is a power play of some kind.’
The bill’s sponsor, Illinois Democrat Mike Quigley, rejected these arguments, saying the legislation – which existed prior to Tiger King – was long overdue. He also said he couldn’t watch the show due to the inhumane treatment of the animals.
California Democrat Jared Huffman also wrote online, ‘Remember #TigerKing? Through the drama and twists, it showed a real issue: the inhumane exploitation of these majestic animals. We’re bringing the #BigCatPublicSafetyAct to end these practices up for a vote, and I’m glad to have helped move it forward through our committee.’
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