AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is urging the US Senate to progress with swift action following the passage of a new act that protects large mammals, after a number of high-profile animal cases.
The US House of Representatives has taken action twice in two years in a bid to specifically safeguard the welfare of big cats at inappropriate facilities.
Following a bipartisan vote of 278 to 134, the Big Cat Public Safety Act has been passed by the House, seeking to limit who can look after lions, tigers, and other big cats in the US. The AZA has worked on iterations of the Big Cat Public Safety Act for almost a decade and continues to strongly back its passage.
AZA president and CEO Dan Ashe says: “Since Congress last considered this important legislation, there have been state and federal indictments of reality TV stars for crimes involving exploitation of big cats, and case after case of big cats handed over or taken from those who should never have had them in the first place.
“There is no question that this legislation and the tools it provides federal officials to protect big cats are more needed than ever. I commend Reps. Quigley and Fitzpatrick for sponsoring the legislation, and I urge the US Senate to act swiftly and send this legislation to the President.”
Safer for cats and guests
The new Safety Act will toughen federal law by prohibiting possession of tigers, lions, and other big cat species, except by eligible entities such as AZA-accredited facilities. Effective reinforcement would end the unsafe use of big cats and cubs for commercial photo opportunities, petting and equivalent activities that undermine animal care and welfare. The new legislation would also discourage exploitation and unscientific breeding for commercial reasons.
AZA-accredited facilities have been long-term supporters of big cat conservation, contributing more than $3.8 million to field projects concerning them between 2020 to 2021.
Several big cats such as the African lion, cheetah, and jaguar, which will be covered under the legislation, are part of the AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction program.