Captive Wildlife Safety Act Finally Gets Teeth in Law

Captive Wildlife Safety Act Finally Gets Teeth in Law

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service will officially implement the Captive Wildlife Safety Act (CWSA) on Sept. 17, 2007, which stiffens regulations on owning and transporting big cats. 

The CWSA was initially signed into law in 2003, however the department has now organized and implemented its resources to begin enforcement. The CWSA makes it illegal to “import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase live lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, or cougars.” The CWSA is an enhancement to the Lacey Act, which applies to the transport of all fish and wildlife, but does not specifically address big cats.

Accredited wildlife sanctuaries and other organizations may be exempt from conditions as long as the appropriate criteria are met.

Ownership of big cats has increased, due in part to Internet auctions and sales; the cats are often purchased when they are young and small and when they grow too large for the owner to manage they often end up either in the care of a humane society or abandoned, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Humans are not a natural part of big cats’ diets, but when the animals are in close quarters with people they may attack for a variety of reasons, including hunger, resulting in serious injuries or death, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.

The Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition reports that an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 big cats are living in private ownership within the United States. The agency recorded three fatalities and 34 injuries to adults and children due to big cat attacks between January 2004 and June 2006.

-Heidi Hatch, Associate News Editor for


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