1 of 2 | The Senate is now set to discuss a bill restricting the ownership and breeding of big cats to zoos, sanctuaries and research facilities. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
July 30 (UPI) -- Private ownership and breeding of big cats could soon become history in America, as the Senate is set to discuss a bill banning the practice this week.
The House on Thursday passed the bill in a 278-124 vote, restricting the ownership and breeding of big cats to zoos, sanctuaries and research facilities. President Joe Biden has indicated he would sign into law the Big Cat Public Safety Act.
The measure now before the Senate became especially salient on the heels of the hit Netflix show Tiger King, documenting the misadventures of a number of infamous big cat owners.
One of the show's main characters, animal-rights activist Carole Baskin, is also one of the legislation's top advocates.
"It is an enormous expense to care for these animals and reckless behavior foists a massive long-term financial liability on animal sanctuaries," Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue, told The Hill. "None of these private big cat owners holds onto the animals for very long, and that means they get turned over to groups like Big Cat Rescue that have to take in these traumatized, often very unhealthy animals."
Animal rights activists point to a 2011 incident in Ohio, when a local man released some 50 exotic animals before killing himself.
Sheriff Matt Lutz remembers the incident all too well.
"I've experienced the worst-case scenario first-hand, and it is a gut-wrenching experience to think about tigers, lions, and other big cats on the prowl in such close proximity to our homes and our schools," he told The Hill.
Humane Society CEO Kitty Block said the private breeding of big cats "creates a cycle of never-ending misery."
"In an effort to control the true wild nature of these poor captive animals, breeders and exhibitors mistreat the cubs from the day they are born," Block said in a statement to Mint. "One paying customer after another handles the cubs, day in and day out, until they grow too big and dangerous. Then they have nowhere to go.
The lucky ones end up in cages or in backyards as pets, Block said.
"Others simply disappear," she added.