Big Cat Public Safety Act Signed Into Law After ‘Tiger King’ Boosts Awareness (UPDATE)

The Big Cat Public Safety Act has now been signed into law by President Biden, who received the bill after it unanimously passed the Senate.

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UPDATED 12/21, 7:25 a.m. ET: President Biden has now signed the Big Cat Public Safety Act into law.

The White House thanked Representatives Quigley, Fitzpatrick, Blumenauer, Buchanan, Garcia, Waltz, McNerney, and Womack, as well as Senators Blumenthal, Collins, Carper, and Burr in a statement announcing the signing.

In a statement, Carole Baskin—of Tiger King fame and the founder of Big Cat Rescue—said the fight for these animals was “never personal” but was instead about changing the law.

“This was always about developing a national policy to shut down the trade in these animals as props in commercial cub handling operations and as pets in people’s backyards and basements,” Baskin said, per a statement shared with Complex.

Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue was part of a coalition of groups that had lobbied for the bill’s support alongside Animal Wellness Action, the Animal Wellness Foundation, and the Center for a Humane Economy.

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This week, the Big Cat Public Safety Act was passed by the Senate by way of a unanimous vote.

In a statement shared Wednesday, Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois said he was “so proud” to see the bill make it this far following its initial introduction in 2019.

“For too long, lax laws have allowed private citizens to own big cats,” Quigley said. “Big cats are wild creatures—they should not be subjected to a life of confinement, where they are used and abused for entertainment purposes. Additionally, the possibility of one of these cats escaping, will no longer loom over our communities and first responders. These cats will be safer, and so will we.”

Next, the Big Cat Public Safety Act will be sent to the desk of President Biden for a final signature.

In short, the Big Cat Public Safety Act “revises requirements governing the trade of big cats (i.e., species of lion, tiger, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, or cougar or any hybrid of such species),” including by updating the types of restrictions placed on possessing and exhibiting such animals. More specifically, it aims to “restrict direct contact” between these animals and the general public.

In 2020, the core issues of the bill received a boost in public awareness thanks to the popularity of Netflix’s Tiger King series, which became an ubiquitous hit amid the early days of the pandemic. In April 2020, a number of major names associated with animal rights advocacy—including Joaquin Phoenix—expressed their support for legislation that would target these business practices.

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