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Big Cats and Public Safety Protection HR1998 S1381

Most Important Big Cat Bill Ever

 

This bill called the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act HR 1998 and S 1381 is the most important piece of legislation to ever be introduced to protect lions, tigers and other exotic wild cats from being kept as pets and in miserable roadside zoos.  Ask your member of Congress to Co-Sponsor this bill now!

 

 

Send a quick and easy letter to your lawmaker using our sample letter asking them to support BigCatLaws.com

 

 

Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act HR 1998 and S 1381

 

On May 15, 2013, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced H.R. 1998, and in July 2013 Senator Blumenthal introduced S 1381, to prohibit the private possession and breeding of big cats. The bill will insure that lions, tigers and other dangerous big cats – which are kept as pets and exploited in roadside zoos and traveling exhibits – do not threaten public safety, diminish the global big cat conservation efforts, or end up living in deplorable conditions where they can be subject to mistreatment and cruelty.

 

White Tiger cub crying for his motherThe debate over private ownership of big cats garnered national attention in October 2011 when the owner of a backyard menagerie in Zanesville, Ohio, opened the cages of his tigers, leopards, lions, wolves, bears and monkeys before committing suicide. Local police, who were neither trained nor properly equipped to deal with a situation of that magnitude, were forced to shoot and kill nearly 50 animals—38 of them big cats—before they could enter populated areas.

 

The bill would make it illegal to possess any big cat except at accredited zoos and wildlife sanctuaries where they can be properly cared for and sheltered, and would only allow breeding at accredited zoos, along with some research or educational institutions. Current owners would be allowed to keep the cats they currently have provided they register their cats with USDA but they would not be allowed to acquire or breed more. This “grandfather” clause is necessary because there is no place for the animals to go if owners were forced to give them up, and the prospect of confiscation might create an incentive to kill animals and illegally sell their parts. Violators of the law could have their animals confiscated along with any vehicles or equipment used to aid in their activity, and could face stiff penalties including fines up to $20,000 and up to five years in jail.

 

Public Safety.

 

It is estimated that there are 10,000 to 20,000 big cats currently held in private ownership in the U.S., although the exact number remains a mystery. In the past 21 years, U.S. incidents involving captive big cats—including tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs and lion/tiger hybrids—have resulted in the deaths of 22 humans, 248 maulings, 260 escapes, 144 big cats deaths and 131 confiscations.

 

 

Illegal trade in big cat parts and impact on conservation in the wild.

 

Despite the claims of breeders who profit from selling these animals, the rampant breeding of big cats in private hands to exploit in exhibits or inappropriately keep as pets does absolutely nothing to further conservation in the wild. In fact, the opposite is true. In the case of tigers, of the estimated 5000 in this country, only about 250 are pure bred subspecies and those are housed in AZA accredited zoos. All of the rest are “generic,” i.e. cross bred between two or more subspecies, and have no conservation value whatsoever. Undercover operations by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service over the last decade and as recently as January 2012 have demonstrated that there is an illegal trade in big cat parts, including skins and bones. According to the International Tiger Coalition, the more these parts are supplied from the captive big cat population, the more the market for these parts grows, and the more demand grows for the “real” or premium product, i.e. parts from big cats poached from the wild.

 

 

Deplorable conditions are the rule, not the exception.

 

sad tiger cubIn the case of big cats owned as pets, i.e. not exhibited to the public, there is no federal regulation governing how they are kept. State laws vary from no restrictions, to simply requiring registration, to some states banning ownership as pets. But, the bans are often ineffective because the states that ban ownership as pets often do so by exempting those who hold USDA licenses as commercial exhibitors. According to a 2010 audit of USDA by OIG, 70% of private owners with four or less cats were actually pet owners simply using USDA registration to evade the state law. So, individuals buy cute cubs that grow up to be dangerous, unmanageable and expensive to feed. They end up in tiny, barren cages in back yards, abandoned to sanctuaries that are struggling financially to support the steady flow of unwanted cats, or in the illegal trade for their parts. Cats owned by exhibitors do fall under the regulations promulgated by USDA under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), but they fare no better. The USDA sets minimum standards that allow these cats to spend their entire lives in small, concrete and chain link cages that in effect are prison cells. And even these minimal standards are totally impractical to enforce. USDA has about 100 inspectors to police over 2700 exotic animal exhibitors and thousands of other animal facilities. Horrible facilities are cited year after year and only a few of the very worst are ever shut down. As a result, the vast majority of big cats live in conditions that any compassionate person would view as cruel and inhumane.

 

 

HR 1998 and S 1381 would avert unnecessary human suffering from deaths and injuries from these inherently dangerous animals, stop the illegal trade in captive animal parts that encourages poaching of the wild population, and end the widespread misery these majestic animals endure in private hands when exploited for exhibition or inappropriately kept as pets. This bill is supported by Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Big Cat Rescue, Born Free USA, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS, Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), ROAR Foundation and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

 

Download the Big Cats Act Factsheet to share with your friends and your lawmakers.

 

Big Cat Ban Save the CubsSee the actual markup language of the amendments to the Lacey Act

 

Listen to a radio interview with Howard Baskin done by one of the Cox Radio stations

 

Download the IFAW Factsheet

 

 

Some videos to share with your friends, depending on their purr-sonalities:

 

 

 

 

 

Last Year 2012

 

Th bill below died in Congress in 2012 due to the Fiscal Cliff being the only issue that congress was focused on even though there were more than 60 bi partisan co sponsors for both a House 4122 and Senate 3257 bill.  Press Release from IFAW  Congressman McKeon and Congresswoman Sanchez Introduce Bipartisan Bill.

 

Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act HR 4122

 

Big Cats and Public Safety Protection

Big Cats and Public Safety Protection

Washington, D.C.- Today, Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.”  Unfortunately, an alarming number of wild cats have been bred and sold as domestic pets in the U.S. This trend threatens public safety and often results in the mistreatment of these animals.  Just recently, the tragic events in Zanesville, Ohio, where 49 wild animals were killed after they were let loose on an unlicensed wild animal preserve, showcases the dangerous implications of this trend.  Currently, only nine states have laws enforcing “no wild animals permitted,” and the remaining states have weak or no laws in existence. This bi-partisan bill will ensure that lions, tigers and other dangerous big cats, do not threaten public safety, diminish global big cat conservation efforts, or end up living in horrible conditions where they can be subject to mistreatment and cruelty.

 

The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act would prohibit private possession of big cats except at highly-qualified facilities like accredited zoos where they can be properly cared for and restrained.  Also, since nobody, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), state agencies, and local first responders knows exactly how many dangerous big cats are being kept in private hands, under what conditions, and in what locations, the bill would require any persons who currently possess big cats to register those animals with USDA in order to keep the cats they currently own.  The bill would also outlaw the breeding of any big cat except at accredited zoos and research and educational institutions.  Violators of the law could have their animals confiscated along with any vehicles or equipment used to aid in their illegal activity, and could face stiff penalties including fines as much as $20,000, and up to five years in jail.

 

“No matter how many times people try to do it, wildcats such as lions, tigers, panthers, cheetahs are impossible to domesticate for personal possession and require much higher living standards compared to a domestic house cat,” said Congressman McKeon.  “When accidents happen and these wild cats are released into our neighborhoods, it causes panic, puts a strain on our local public safety responders and is extremely dangerous. This bill is a step forward in protecting the public and ensuring that wildcats reside in proper living conditions.”

 

“The events in Ohio last year showed the tragedy that can occur when exotic animals are privately owned by individuals, with little to no oversight,” said Congresswoman Sanchez.  “Wild animals are dangerous and we clearly need better laws limiting their ownership.  Exotic species should be regulated to high quality facilities with the ability to properly care for them.”

 

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is working on introducing a companion bill in the Senate.

 

“It’s a little hard to believe that there’s a crazy patchwork of regulations governing people who try to keep wild cats as pets,” said Senator Kerry.  “I know it sounds like something you just read about when there’s a tragic news story, but it’s all too real for first responders who respond to a 911 call and are surprised to come face to face with a Bengal tiger.  This bill will ensure that these endangered creatures are kept in secure, professional facilities like wildlife sanctuaries rather than in small cages in someone’s backyard or apartment building.”

 

This legislation is supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Born Free USA, Humane Society of United States, and Big Cat Rescue of Tampa, FL.

 

We make it easy for you to contact your lawmakers at the link below.  Or you can print the HR4122BigCatsAct flier.

 

http://www.capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=61054081&type=CO

 

Contact Congress and tell them that you support this bill.

 

Here is the actual language of the Big Cats Act bill:

 

US Big Cats Legislation (Lacey Act markup)

§ 3371. Definitions

For the purposes of this chapter:

(g) Prohibited wildlife species–The term “prohibited wildlife species” means any live species of lion, tiger, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, or cougar or any hybrid of such a species.

 

§ 3372. Prohibited acts

(a) Offenses other than marking offenses

It is unlawful for any person–

(1) to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any fish or wildlife or plant taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law, treaty, or regulation of the United States or in violation of any Indian tribal law;

(2) to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce–

(A) any fish or wildlife taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State or in violation of any foreign law; or

(B) any plant–

(i) taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State, or any foreign law, that protects plants or that regulates–

(I) the theft of plants;

(II) the taking of plants from a park, forest reserve, or other officially protected area;

(III) the taking of plants from an officially designated area; or

(IV) the taking of plants without, or contrary to, required authorization;

(ii) taken, possessed, transported, or sold without the payment of appropriate royalties, taxes, or stumpage fees required for the plant by any law or regulation of any State or any foreign law; or

(iii) taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any limitation under any law or regulation of any State, or under any foreign law, governing the export or transshipment of plants; or

(C) any prohibited wildlife species (subject to subsection (e) of this section);

(3) within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States (as defined in section 7 of Title 18)–

(A) to possess any fish or wildlife taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State or in violation of any foreign law or Indian tribal law, or

(B) to possess any plant–

(i) taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State, or any foreign law, that protects plants or that regulates–

(I) the theft of plants;

II) the taking of plants from a park, forest reserve, or other officially protected area;

(III) the taking of plants from an officially designated area; or

(IV) the taking of plants without, or contrary to, required authorization;

(ii) taken, possessed, transported, or sold without the payment of appropriate royalties, taxes, or stumpage fees required for the plant by any law or regulation of any State or any foreign law; or

(iii) taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any limitation under any law or regulation of any State, or under any foreign law, governing the export or transshipment of plants; or

(4) Subject to subsection (e), to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, purchase, breed, possess or own any prohibited wildlife species; or

(4) (5) to attempt to commit any act described in paragraphs (1) through (3) (1) through (4).

(e) Nonapplicability of prohibited wildlife species offense.

(1) In general, Subsection (a)(2)(C) (a)(4) of this section does not apply to –

(A) importation, exportation, transportation, sale, receipt, acquisition, breeding, possession, ownership, or purchase of an animal of a prohibited wildlife species, by a person that, under regulations prescribed under paragraph (3), is described in subparagraph (A), (B), (C), or (D) with respect to that species; and

(B) transportation, possession, or ownership of an animal of a prohibited wildlife species, by a person that, under regulations prescribed under paragraph (3), is described in subparagraph (E) of paragraph (2) with respect to that animal.

(2) Persons described

A person is described in this paragraph, if the person–

(A) is licensed or registered, and inspected, by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service or any other Federal agency with respect to that species is a zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums;

(B) is a State college, university, or agency, State-licensed wildlife rehabilitator, or State-licensed veterinarian;

C) is an accredited is a wildlife sanctuary that cares for prohibited wildlife species and–

(i) is a corporation that is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of Title 26 and described in sections 501(c)(3) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of Title 26;

(ii) does not commercially trade in animals listed in section 3371(g) of this title, including offspring, parts, and byproducts of such animals;

(iii) does not propagate animals listed in section 3371(g) of this title; and

(iv) does not allow direct contact between the public and animals; or and

(v)  does not allow the transport and display of animals off-site;

(D) has custody of the animal solely for the purpose of expeditiously transporting the animal to a person described in this paragraph with respect to the species.;or

(E) is in possession of one or more animals of a prohibited wildlife species, that–

 

            (i) were born before the dates of enactment of this subparagraph; and

 

(ii) are registered with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service within 6 months after the date of promulgation of regulations implementing this subparagraph by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture.

 

§ 3373. Penalties and sanctions

(a) Civil penalties

(1) Any person who engages in conduct prohibited by any provision of this chapter (other than subsections (a)(4), (b), (d) and (f) of section 3372 of this title) and in the exercise of due care should know that the fish or wildlife or plants were taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of, or in a manner unlawful under, any underlying law, treaty, or regulation, and any person who knowingly violates subsection (d) subsections (a)(4), (d), of section 3372 of this title, may be assessed a civil penalty by the Secretary of not more than $10,000 for each such violation: Provided, That when the violation involves fish or wildlife or plants with a market value of less than $350, and involves only the transportation, acquisition, or receipt of fish or wildlife or plants taken or possessed in violation of any law, treaty, or regulation of the United States, any Indian tribal law, any foreign law, or any law or regulation of any State, the penalty assessed shall not exceed the maximum provided for violation of said law, treaty, or regulation, or $10,000, whichever is less.

(2) Any person who violates subsection (b) or (f) of section 3372 of this title, except as provided in paragraph (1), may be assessed a civil penalty by the Secretary of not more than $250.

(3) For purposes of paragraphs (1) and (2), any reference to a provision of this chapter or to a section of this chapter shall be treated as including any regulation issued to carry out any such provision or section.

(4) No civil penalty may be assessed under this subsection unless the person accused of the violation is given notice and opportunity for a hearing with respect to the violation. Each violation shall be a separate offense and the offense shall be deemed to have been committed not only in the district where the violation first occurred, but also in any district in which a person may have taken or been in possession of the said fish or wildlife or plants.

(5) Any civil penalty assessed under this subsection may be remitted or mitigated by the Secretary.

(6) In determining the amount of any penalty assessed pursuant to paragraphs (1) and (2), the Secretary shall take into account the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the prohibited act committed, and with respect to the violator, the degree of culpability, ability to pay, and such other matters as justice may require.

(b) Hearings

Hearings held during proceedings for the assessment of civil penalties shall be conducted in accordance with section 554 of Title 5. The administrative law judge may issue subpoenas for the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of relevant papers, books, or documents, and may administer oaths. Witnesses summoned shall be paid the same fees and mileage that are paid to witnesses in the courts of the United States. In case of contumacy or refusal to obey a subpoena issued pursuant to this paragraph and served upon any person, the district court of the United States for any district in which such person is found, resides, or transacts business, upon application by the United States and after notice to such person, shall have jurisdiction to issue an order requiring such person to appear and give testimony before the administrative law judge or to appear and produce documents before the administrative law judge, or both, and any failure to obey such order of the court may be punished by such court as a contempt thereof.

(c) Review of civil penalty

Any person against whom a civil penalty is assessed under this section may obtain review thereof in the appropriate District Court of the United States by filing a complaint in such court within 30 days after the date of such order and by simultaneously serving a copy of the complaint by certified mail on the Secretary, the Attorney General, and the appropriate United States attorney. The Secretary shall promptly file in such court a certified copy of the record upon which such violation was found or such penalty imposed, as provided in section 2112 of Title 28. If any person fails to pay an assessment of a civil penalty after it has become a final and unappealable order or after the appropriate court has entered final judgment in favor of the Secretary, the Secretary may request the Attorney General of the United States to institute a civil action in an appropriate district court of the United States to collect the penalty, and such court shall have jurisdiction to hear and decide any such action. In hearing such action, the court shall have authority to review the violation and the assessment of the civil penalty de novo.

(d) Criminal penalties

(1) Any person who–

(A) knowingly imports or exports any fish or wildlife or plants in violation of any provision of this chapter (other than subsections (b), (d) and (f) of section 3372 of this title), or

(B) knowingly violates paragraph (4) of section 3(a), or

(B) (C) violates any provision of this chapter (other than subsections (b), (d) and (f) of section 3372 of this title) by knowingly engaging in conduct that involves the sale or purchase of, the offer of sale or purchase of, or the intent to sell or purchase, fish or wildlife or plants with a market value in excess of $350, knowing that the fish or wildlife or plants were taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of, or in a manner unlawful under, any underlying law, treaty or regulation, shall be fined not more than $20,000, or imprisoned for not more than five years, or both. Each violation shall be a separate offense and the offense shall be deemed to have been committed not only in the district where the violation first occurred, but also in any district in which the defendant may have taken or been in possession of the said fish or wildlife or plants.

(2) Any person who knowingly engages in conduct prohibited by any provision of this chapter (other than subsections (b), (d), and (f) of section 3372 of this title) and in the exercise of due care should know that the fish or wildlife or plants were taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of, or in a manner unlawful under, any underlying law, treaty or regulation, or in the exercise of due care should know that the conduct violates paragraph 4 of section 3(a) shall be fined not more than $10,000, or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both. Each violation shall be a separate offense and the offense shall be deemed to have been committed not only in the district where the violation first occurred, but also in any district in which the defendant may have taken or been in possession of the said fish or wildlife or plants.

(3) Any person who knowingly violates subsection (d) or (f) of section 3372 of this title–

(A) shall be fined under Title 18, or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both, if the offense involves–

(i) the importation or exportation of fish or wildlife or plants; or

(ii) the sale or purchase, offer of sale or purchase, or commission of an act with intent to sell or purchase fish or wildlife or plants with a market value greater than $350; and

(B) shall be fined under Title 18, or imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both, if the offense does not involve conduct described in subparagraph (A).

(e) Permit sanctions

The Secretary may also suspend, modify, or cancel any Federal hunting or fishing license, permit, or stamp, or any license or permit authorizing a person to import or export fish or wildlife or plants (other than a permit or license issued pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act [16 U.S.C.A. § 1801 et seq.]), or to operate a quarantine station or rescue center for imported wildlife or plants, issued to any person who is convicted of a criminal violation of any provision of this chapter or any regulation issued hereunder. The Secretary shall not be liable for the payments of any compensation, reimbursement, or damages in connection with the modification, suspension, or revocation of any licenses, permits, stamps, or other agreements pursuant to this section.

§ 3374. Forfeiture

(a) In general

(1) All fish or wildlife or plants imported, exported, transported, sold, received, acquired, bred, possessed, owned, or purchased contrary to the provisions of section 3372 of this title (other than section 3372(b) of this title), or any regulation issued pursuant thereto, shall be subject to forfeiture to the United States notwithstanding any culpability requirements for civil penalty assessment or criminal prosecution included in section 3373 of this title.

(2) All vessels, vehicles, aircraft, and other equipment used to aid in the importing, exporting, transporting, selling, receiving, acquiring, breeding, possessing, owning, or purchasing of fish or wildlife or plants in a criminal violation of this chapter for which a felony conviction is obtained shall be subject to forfeiture to the United States if (A) the owner of such vessel, vehicle, aircraft, or equipment was at the time of the alleged illegal act a consenting party or privy thereto or in the exercise of due care should have known that such vessel, vehicle, aircraft, or equipment would be used in a criminal violation of this chapter, and (B) the violation involved the sale or purchase of, the offer of sale or purchase of, or the intent to sell or purchase, fish or wildlife or plants, or involved the breeding, possession, or ownership of a prohibited wildlife species.

(b) Application of customs laws

All provisions of law relating to the seizure, forfeiture, and condemnation of property for violation of the customs laws, the disposition of such property or the proceeds from the sale thereof, and the remission or mitigation of such forfeiture, shall apply to the seizures and forfeitures incurred, or alleged to have been incurred, under the provisions of this chapter, insofar as such provisions of law are applicable and not inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter, except that all powers, rights, and duties conferred or imposed by the customs laws upon any officer or employee of the Treasury Department may, for the purposes of this chapter, also be exercised or performed by the Secretary or by such persons as he may designate: Provided, That any warrant for search or seizure shall be issued in accordance with rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

(c) Storage cost

Any person convicted of an offense, or assessed a civil penalty, under section 3373 of this title shall be liable for the costs incurred in the storage, care, and maintenance of any fish or wildlife or plant seized in connection with the violation concerned.

(d) Civil forfeitures

Civil forfeitures under this section shall be governed by the provisions of chapter 46 of Title 18.

 

18 Comments

  1. Who will join me in being the voice for animals that are being used as props in pictures and for they parts? It's time to talk to the legislature.

  2. I don't like seeing them caged at all. I do like the Wild Animal Sanctuary near Keensburg though.

  3. This is a giant step forward in ensuring the safety and preservation of these wonderful creatures. Please read, share with others, and do what you can to help get this passed.

  4. I hope that it gets past on through and made a law. With the current Congress, all reason has gone done the sewer.

  5. This is a great bill!

    • THANK YOU for helping pass this info around.

  6. This is a link to info on legislation to support Big Cat legislation. These animals need our protection!

    • THANK YOU for promoting that link

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