On Tuesday, the White House officially threw its support behind a bill pushed by Tiger King star Carole Baskin to restrict exotic animal ownership.
In a statement, the Biden administration said that the Big Cat Public Safety Act “would build on existing laws that protect big cats like tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, and other wild animals living in captivity in the United States” and “limit ownership of these animals to zoos, sanctuaries, universities, and agencies.”
The measure — introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) — would formally ban the cub petting industry of lions, tigers, and other big cats featured in Netflix’s hit Tiger King documentary released in 2020. As highlighted in the show, private zoos regularly host events where park-goers are allowed to pet the cubs of small cats.
For years, animal rights activist groups have criticized the practice that they say harms animals and threatens public safety.
“Because cubs can only be ‘handled’ for a few months, this practice results in cubs being prematurely weaned and forcibly separated from their mothers, often resulting in long-term psychological repercussions,” the Animal Legal Defense Fund says in a message of support for the measure on its website.
Private zoos, like the one run by Joe Exotic and other owners featured on the show, benefit from the loosely regulated cub petting and private cat ownership business. The legislation could dramatically affect how businesses like these operate, stripping away a large portion of the revenue earned through petting attractions.
Early last month, the New York Post reported that Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, a private zoo owner featured in Tiger King, was booked by the FBI. No charges were listed, according to The Post, but Antle has faced numerous charges of felonies, including abuse of exotic animals, over the years.
The House is expected to vote on a handful of bills, including the big cats measure, as early as this week.