No more Tiger King: Biden signs bill banning big cat ownership

By AFP   December 20, 2022 | 06:50 pm PT
No more Tiger King: Biden signs bill banning big cat ownership
There are fewer than 4,000 tigers left in the wild in the world, but almost double that number kept in the US, according to estimates. Photo by AFP/Francois Picard
US President Joe Biden signed a bill on Tuesday banning private ownership of tigers and other big cats and "cub petting" highlighted in the Netflix smash hit documentary "Tiger King."

The Big Cat Public Safety Act limits ownership of tigers, lions, jaguars and other big cats to zoos, sanctuaries, universities and agencies.

The bill prohibits direct contact between the public and big cats such as that seen in "Tiger King," which featured the exploits of a flamboyant private zoo owner named Joe Exotic.

Current owners of big cats are exempt but will have to register the animals with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The advocacy group In Defense of Animals welcomed the bill's signing.

"It will be illegal to force lions, tigers, and other big cat species into unnatural situations for entertainment," said the group's captive animal campaigner Brittany Michelson.

"As a result they will no longer be drugged, transported, and used as props for photo opportunities," Michelson said. "Big cat ownership will be significantly restricted and exploitative 'cub petting' phased out."

Cub petting involves paying customers being given the opportunity to hold, feed or take pictures with young animals.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the bill will mean that "'Tiger Kings' can no longer cash in on the suffering of big-cat cubs removed from their caged mothers."

Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joe Maldonado-Passage, was sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years in prison for attempting to kill a rival animal refuge owner, Carole Baskin.

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