Bill Banning Big Cat Ownership Featured in Tiger King Passes House

Netflix's Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness turned colorful real-world characters into household names, with one of the more positive results of the series being that it brought more awareness to big cat ownership and the poor treatment of such animals, with the House of Representatives recently passing a bill that would largely ban big cat ownership. The Big Cat Public Safety Act passed 272-114 and, per CBS News, serves as an extension to the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981, which will "further the conservation of certain wildlife species." The new bill places limitations on who can "transport, sell, buy, breed or possess big cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or hybrids of those animals."

If the bill passes officially, there will be much stricter restrictions on not only individuals owning big cats, but would also prevent direct contact between the animals and the public, including interactions with cubs. As seen in Tiger King, Joe "Exotic" Maldonado-Passage's rivalry with Carole Baskin was ignited by his efforts to hold public events featuring cub interactions, with Baskin attempting to shut down as many of these events across the country as possible.

Wildlife sanctuaries, colleges and universities, state-licensed veterinarians, and institutions with the appropriate permits from the Department of Agriculture, however, would still be permitted to hold big cats. Individuals who have big cats who were born before the potential passing of the bill will be permitted to keep them, though they won't be allowed to obtain more, while all public interactions with the public will no longer be permitted.

A violation of the law could result in a $20,000 fine or as many as five years in prison.

Maldonado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year sentence for 17 federal charges of animal abuse and two counts of murder for hire, in his attempts to have Baskin killed. Earlier this week, a volunteer at Baskin's Big Cat Rescue was injured by a tiger, though the volunteer admits that this was due to them unintentionally violating their handling protocols.

"We are thrilled that the Big Cat Public Safety Act passed the House with bipartisan support to protect the big cats from abuse, the public and first responders from injuries and death, and the tiger in the wild from extinction," Big Cat Rescue CEO and Founder Baskin shared on Facebook. "None of these important goals are partisan in any way and we hope the Senate will follow suit quickly to make it into law."

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