Ban Private Ownership of Big Cats

Target: Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

Goal: Cosponsor bill to end private possession and breeding of big cats.

The private ownership and breeding of big cats in the United States will be prohibited if a new bill introduced to Congress—the Big Cat Public Safety Act–is passed. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), “An estimated 10,000 big cats are kept as pets and for profit in places like basements, backyards and roadside zoos throughout the U.S. today.” And this is only a rough estimate. The actual number could be much higher.

If that is not shocking enough, consider that there may be more tigers held captive in the U.S. than living freely in the wild. The fact that this is even a possibility is nothing short of a tragedy.

There are a number of self-evident moral issues with keeping these animals in private hands. First, big cats are necessarily miserable when held in captivity. In the wild, tigers can maintain territory ranging from seven to 40 miles, which they need to hunt and mate. They also routinely wander outside of this territory. When held captive, for instance at a roadside zoo, they are forced to spend their lives in tiny cages with scarcely enough room to walk around.

Hundreds of big cats are bred (and abruptly torn from their mothers) every year in the U.S. so that people can hold and photograph them when they are cubs. Of course, the animals quickly become unmanageable, at which point they are sold off or simply killed.

There is also the obvious fact that privately owned big cats present a serious danger to the public. The IFAW reports that “in just the past two decades, dangerous incidents involving captive big cats in the U.S. have resulted in the deaths of 24 people; and over 200 additional humans have been mauled or injured.” Incidents like these will be prevented in the future if Congress passes the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 3546/S. 2541).

Please sign the below petition urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to cosponsor the proposed legislation. Please also write to your state’s congressional representatives asking them to do the same. Private ownership of big cats is a national issue that requires federal intervention.


Dear Mr. Ryan,

I am writing to urge you to lend your support to the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 3546/S. 2541), which would officially end the private exploitation of big cats in this country. Private ownership of tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs and jaguars is endemic in the United States. It is estimated that around 10,000 big cats are currently held captive in places like basements, backyards and roadside zoos.

Many of these beautiful animals are endangered, living under constant threat from habitat devastation, poaching and other destructive human activity. Breeding them for private use does nothing to redress this very urgent issue. What it does do is keep these majestic animals miserable for their entire lives. It moreover exposes the public to unnecessary danger, with hundreds of people being attacked over the past two decades alone.

Please help to end this inhumane practice by cosponsoring the Big Cat Public Safety Act and encouraging your colleagues in the House of Representatives to do the same.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Hafiz Issadeen

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  1. Why in Gods name, have no laws been made against this?
    We all know it’s wrong and it’s fucking dangerous… And still NO LAWS!

  2. “So many people insist they are against animal abuse, cruelty, suffering and the inhumane treatment of animals, yet they don’t understand they are actively engaging in and supporting egregious suffering, abuse, cruelty and inhumane treatment when they eat animals and their ‘by-products.’ If you are against cruelty, suffering and inhumane treatment, then you go vegan. It’s just that simple.” – Sarah Kiser

  3. Lisa Zarafonetis Lisa Zarafonetis says:

    Signed & Shared.

  4. WHY IS OUR GOVERNMENT SO INEPT? These roadside zoos, traveling circuses,backyards basements, etcetera are loaded with these cats suffering extreme abuse. Oh right, field officers give warnings. DO SOMETHING. I want my TAX dollars back.

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