Chair Grijalva Celebrates Bipartisan House Passage of Big Cat Public Safety Act, Other Natural Resources Bills

Washington, D.C.House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today issued the following statement on House passage of H.R. 263, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, by a bipartisan vote of 278-134. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) on January 11, 2021, will prohibit private possession and breeding of big cats (e.g., lions and tigers) and restrict direct contact between the public and big cats.

A fact sheet on the bill is available here.

“Far too often, the people who own and breed lions, tigers, and other wild cats aren’t doing it because they love animals—they’re doing it because they know they can make a quick buck with photo ops and other problematic tourist traps,” Chair Grijalva said. “They give the cheapest care and the lowest standard of safety they can, putting both these creatures and people at risk. I’m proud to see so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle recognize the importance of this legislation. I urge the Senate to take quick action so we can put commonsense protections for these animals and ourselves into law.”

“Ultimately, this legislation is about public safety,” Rep. Quigley said. “Any American can imagine the danger that exotic cats can pose. These are predators, not pets. Law enforcement has long advocated for legislation that will keep dangerous wild animals out of their communities and reduce the risk to first responders and the animals themselves.

“I have been proud to work alongside law enforcement groups and animal organizations to ensure this bill will make both neighborhoods and animals safer. For too long, lax laws have allowed private citizens to own big cats. The animals subject to these grotesque conditions deserve better. I hope my colleagues in the Senate will swiftly take up this legislation so we can make a difference for communities across the country and save these animals from a life of confinement and restriction.”

Private possession and overbreeding of big cats is largely driven by for-profit exhibitors who sell photo opportunities with baby cubs to the public. Once the cubs are a few weeks-old and no longer profitable, they are often left to live in abusive conditions, sold for parts, or killed. Across the United States, there are as many as 20,000 privately-owned big cats.

Inadequate and unsecured living conditions for big cats often leads to dangerous interactions between community members and animals. Since 1990, four children have lost their lives and dozens more have lost limbs or suffered traumatic injuries.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act—made famous in the Netflix series, Tiger King—addresses a major loophole in current federal protections for big cats by adding private possession and breeding to the list of prohibited activities. The legislation also restricts direct contact between the public and big cats, with some important exceptions.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act is widely supported by law enforcement organizations, including National and State-level Sheriffs Associations, and animal welfare organizations, including the Humane Society. 

Chair Grijalva also cheered the bipartisan House passage of two other Natural Resources Committee-passed bills:

  • H.R. 7283 (Cartwright) Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines Act (STREAM Act). The bill, passed by a bipartisan vote of 391-9, amends the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law so that funds appropriated for abandoned coal mine cleanup can be used to treat acid mine drainage.
  • H.R. 5093 (Herrera-Butler) Wind River Administrative Site Conveyance Act. The bill, passed by voice vote, directs the transfer of certain National Forest System land in Washington state to Skamania County, Washington.

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