When the Big Cat Public Safety Act HR263 / S1210 passed into law in the United States on December 22, 2022 it was greatest accomplishment of Big Cat Rescue and all of her allies in the efforts to save big cats from abuse. This law is being enforced by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and will eliminate private ownership of big cats, with the exception of the 17 individuals who registered by June 18, 2023. It bans contact with big cats of any age and thus ends the constant breeding that was common in order to keep cub petting booths all across America full of tiny cubs for people to fondle. Next we are working on ending private ownership and public contact around the globe.
Did you know that the exotic pet trade causes more suffering for big cats than all of the other atrocities combined? Every week we are called upon to rescue another exotic cat because the sanctuaries are full and there is not enough money to take care of all of the rejects of the pet and entertainment industry. We take in as many as we can, but always have to consider the needs of the animals we have already committed to first.
In this video, you will see facilities that are currently licensed and approved by the USDA and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission. As atrocious as it is, many have been operating at this level or worse for more than 10 years. Yet they are still permitted to remain open to the public. When you watch this video you will understand precisely why we need better laws. Join us in this effort to change the exotic pet laws!
Help us stop the breeding of wild animals for lives of confinement at CatLaws.com
ABC did an undercover investigation, with help from Big Cat Rescue, that you can watch online HERE. Be sure to watch all of the clips listed there. They start out the same but are very different. What they do share in common is the grim truth that some people are using animals in ways that put the public in deadly contact with dangerous animals.
The Animal Protection Institute completed a one year investigation into the cause of so many exotic animals being abandoned by going undercover into the homes of members of Phoenix Exotics and the Feline Conservation Federation. Watch the shocking video HERE and then TAKE ACTION. Please help support API for the great work they have done in exposing these issues.
The following charts are just the calls that we get personally. This is only a small percentage of the overwhelming problem. The saddest news is that, as one of the world’s most influential exotic cat sanctuaries, if we cannot take them, there is virtually no where else for them to go.
** Wild Animal Orphanage collapsed in 2010 which caused the spike in displaced tigers. It would have been 39 if not for this influx.
We cannot even begin to take in every exotic cat that has ended up in abusive and neglectful situations. More and more we are dedicating our time and resources to stopping the problem at it’s source, by educating people about the pet trade and entertainment industry. Although we are taking in fewer cats each year, we are working harder toward solutions that will ultimately benefit all exotic animals. As laws become more protective for the animals, abusers are bailing out, and as you can see there has been a huge increase in the year 2003 of abandoned animals. Accredited facilities like ours, which meet the high standards of The Global Federation of Sanctuaries, need interim support to care for these animals and the revenue to pursue a change in perception that will ultimately end the suffering altogether.
View this slideshow to see what life is really like for captive exotic cats. Play Slideshow.
Did you know?
That the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that only 10% of the 10,000 tigers in the U.S. are in professionally regulated zoos and sanctuaries. Add to that more than 5000 cougars and assorted other big cats and you start to see the enormity of the problem. Up to 10,000 tigers are kept as private pets, according to R. Eric Miller, senior vice president of zoological operations at the St. Louis Zoo. By contrast, there are fewer than 400 tigers in American zoos, Miller said.
The U.S. State Department estimates that the market value of tiger parts at $7,000 for a set of bones. Tiger and other illegal wildlife products have reached $10 billion a year and possibly twice that. China is the largest market, with the United States a close second. Newsweek 2/4/08
That there are only a handful of facilities that are accredited by The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries even though there are thousands of places that claim to be animal refuges.
There are only 1200-2000 tigers left in the wild due primarily to habitat loss and hunting. According to the World Wildlife Fund the tiger population has declined by as much as 95% in the past hundred years.
Even though Florida has an outright ban on possessing tigers as personal pets, the state now has 1,455 tigers (according to the Palm Beach Post), a 50 percent increase in 15 months and second only to Texas in the nation. Florida also has 262 USDA exhibitors for big cats, more than any other state. There are more tiger breeders in Florida than anywhere else but there is no plan for reintroducing tigers back to the wild and none of the tigers bred by these backyard breeders are pure bloodlines that could ever be used in Species Survival Plans.
That just in the state of Florida there are 3,837 people with permits to own wild animals. Of that number 389 facilities are permitted to own tigers, gorillas and other Class I & Class II dangerous animals, but only 21 are accredited zoos and only 3 are accredited as rescue facilies. 0.0002 of FL’s populations owns exotic animals and yet all of us pay the price in safety and damage to the environment when no-longer-novel pets are turned loose.
The undercover video above was filmed in FL. About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) Founded in 1969, IFAW works around the globe to protect animals and their habitats and to create a better world for animals and people. Please support www.ifaw.org. Media clip provided by IFAW through TheNewsMarket.com
Florida issues almost 4000 exotic ownership permits each year and has to employ 18 inspectors at a cost to tax payers of 1.5 million dollars per year, just to allow people to keep, breed and sell exotic pets. Permits cost between 50. and 250. This falls 1,250,000.00 short of enough to cover the cost of administration. What can a County in Florida do to ban exotic pet ownership when FWCC says they have supreme authority and no intention of banning this inhumane practice? Click here to see what the Attorney General has to say.
That 98% of all exotic animals die within the first two years of being brought home as pets.
That with our existing cryobiological collection it is no longer necessary to keep breeding endangered species in captivity to preserve the species. More than 675 endangered species are preserved in the Frozen Zoo for repopulating the planet if we ever manage to set aside habitat that can sustain them.
That just since 1990 more than 23 people have been killed in the US by captive cats. See updates.
That the illegal portion of the 15 billion dollar trade in exotic pets is third only to the market for illegal drugs and weapons? (In 2007 the U.S. assistant secretary of state for environmental affairs, Claudia McMurray, estimates that the wildlife trade is valued at anywhere from $10 to $20 billion a year.) The Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking says the trade is often closely linked to organized crime, and follows the same routes as those used to smuggle drugs and people.
That in 2005 some 210 million wild animals were brought legally into the U.S. and many more were smuggled, because there are just 120 USFWS inspectors to cover 39 International airports and all of the border crossings. In just the legal importations that means each inspector must view and approve the health of almost 15,000 animals per day, every day of the year. See what is happening as a result here.
That for every one performing animal you see, there were 30 that were killed or discarded because they refused.
That it is still legal to raise and kill or trap and kill bobcats, cougars, lions and lynx for their fur and for the exotic meat industry.
That only 19 states ban big cats as pets in this country and most of those states have ridiculous loopholes that are exploited by those intent on breeding and selling big cats as pets.
That there are only 90 USDA inspectors who are responsible for inspecting more than 30,000 breeders, dealers and exhibitors of wildlife.
Until recently, most exotic cats seeking refuge came from pet owners, but since the 1990’s the majority come from badly managed facilities operating under the guise of being non profit sanctuaries. Most of the cats end up in these pseudo sanctuaries after being used as photo and handling props.
18.2 million Americans own exotic pets according to a recent National Pet Owners Survey. That’s a 1.4 million jump since 2002, an increase that is probably understated since a good portion of this trade is illegal.
It is important that lawmakers understand how much people care about animals. New figures just released from APPMA’s 2005-2006 National Pet Owners Survey (NPOS) show pet ownership is currently at its highest level, with 63 percent of all U.S. households owning a pet which equates to more than 69 million households.That’s up from 64 million in 2002 and 51 million in 1988 when APPMA’s tracking began .According to the 375 page survey that tracks hundreds of pet ownership trends, Americans own approximately 73 million dogs, 90 million cats, 139 million freshwater fish, 9 million saltwater fish, 16 million birds, 18 million small animals and 11 million reptiles.
There is a growing trend to prohibit the use of big cats in traveling acts and to ban their possession as pets. Read more: Big Cat Bans
If you like what Big Cat Rescue is doing to stop the suffering and abuse, please help us continue to do it:
Examples of Big Cats We Rescued
If you don’t jump through hoops at work,
does your boss smack you in the face with a baseball bat?
Think your job is stressful? Shaquille had to jump through flaming hoops, as part of a Las Vegas night club act. And when he didn’t perform as well as expected, his boss beat him bloody with a baseball bat.
As a result, this 150 lb. black leopard bears lots of scars. His face was so badly beaten that his eye sockets were permanently shattered, causing the eyelids to roll in. His eyes will always tear as a sorrowful reminder of the abuse he endured. Perhaps they are also tears for all those other animals who are still made to perform for man’s entertainment.
Big Cat Rescue may have saved Shaquille from further pain, but this majestic black leopard will always carry physical and emotional wounds. For years he would leap at the cage and hang there snarling whenever a man came into view for fear of being tortured again. Over time, however, he has become much more comfortable with his surroundings. Now Shaquille lounges the day away and enjoys room service provided by loving care takers at the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary. With his new found care and trust, men don’t even draw so much as a second glance from him any more.
As an accredited non-profit educational rescue facility, Big Cat Rescue will continue to feed, love and care for Shaquille and other abused, abandoned big cats. The number of animals they take in keeps growing and growing, now encompassing over 100 exotic cats representing 16 different species. You’re invited to take a tour and see Shaquille and all the other big cats. It’s the largest and most diverse collection of exotic cats in the world. You can actually get within three feet of these magnificent creatures. A small tax deductible donation is encouraged, which will go directly to the care and feeding of these exotic cats.
While you are here, look into how you can personally sponsor any cat on the premises. With your support, Big Cat Rescue will continue to give these animals new lives and new hope.
Even animals have been brutalized
because of the color of their skin.
Believe or not, many tigers have been persecuted and killed simply because of the color of their skin. Shere Khan almost faced such a horrific death – at the hands of man. Like many of his ancestors, he was bred to be a white tiger because zoos will pay as much as $30,000.00 to have one of these rare animals to help attract the paying public. Unfortunately though, bearing a white tiger is a genetic fluke. Therefore, hundreds of unwanted golden colored cubs are born and then discarded in order to produce that one valuable white cub. Many of the little golden cubs are destroyed or sold to exotic pet owners. They often end up being abused, abandoned, killed for their fur, or cruelly hunted and slain for fun at big game ranches.
After having the misfortune of being born the wrong color, things went from bad to worse for Shere Khan. Unwanted and uncared for at only four months old, he was living full time in a tiny pet carrier. Soon, his growing body was almost bulging out the sides. Denied a decent diet, Shere Khan’s teeth and bones became so brittle, he could not walk more than a few steps without having to sit down. Over time, his teeth actually rotted through his skull causing huge weeping sores on his face and chin.
Luckily, Shere Khan was discovered and saved by Big Cat Rescue. They were able to get him early enough to save his adult teeth and restore his bone strength. Given new life, Shere Khan has grown into a mighty 800-pound tiger. He has become one of the most enamored cats on the premises, as he endears visitors by roaming around his 3-acre Cat-A-Tat, playing with his 75-pound medicine ball, or swimming in the lake.
You can take a tour of Big Cat Rescue’s accredited non-profit educational rescue facility and see Shere Khan face to face. It’s the only place where you can actually get within three feet of these powerful predators. Here, you can view over 100 big cats representing 16 different species, which make up the largest and most diverse collection of exotic cats in the world. Any donation you can make is tax deductible and will help Big Cat Rescue continue to shelter, feed and care for the cats.
Sentenced to death by electrocution
just for wearing a fur coat.
That’s the cruel fate that awaited Raindance, as she lay imprisoned in a cage in a filthy, cold, metal shed on a Minnesota fur farm. Sadly, her only crime was being born with a beautiful fur coat. This cute, cuddly, healthy Northern bobcat was going to be electrocuted and her soft spotted belly cut out to make trim for coats. Worse yet, she was just one of hundreds of bobcats, Canadian Lynx and Siberian Lynx who faced the same death sentence if they weren’t sold to a pet home before they reached one year of age.
Thankfully, Big Cat Rescue saved Raindance and 55 other kittens from that slaughter house. And life has never been the same. All these cats were under four weeks old and many had to be fed every two hours. Big Cat Rescue employed family, friends, and anyone who could hold a bottle to keep them all fed and clean.
Raindance and these kittens were lucky. Many others, however, have not been so fortunate. Today, thanks to Big Cat Rescue, Raindance is a healthy, full-grown adult bobcat with a gorgeous spotted coat that is the envy of everyone. She is one of the most popular cats at the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary. She gets fan mail and holiday cards from around the world. She has been painted, photographed and made the subject of countless school reports, poems and letters because she is such a loving creature who immediately engages visitors with her playful personality. And to think how many people would have never experience the feeling of connecting with the wild, if she had been slaughtered on that cold, dreary day.
You can take a tour of Big Cat Rescue and personally meet Raindance. As an accredited non-profit educational rescue facility, Big Cat Rescue houses over 100 exotic cats representing 16 different species. They make up the largest and most diverse collection of big cats in the world. Get closer than you ever imagined — within 3 feet of these amazing creatures. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Any donation you can make is tax deductible and will help Big Cat Rescue continue to feed and care for these exotic cats.
Nakoma was purposely starved, deprived of vitamins and calcium, and kept in a small concrete space. Hardly conditions fit for a king.
That’s when Big Cat Rescue stepped in and purchased young Nakoma at a livestock auction. Imagine that, the “king of beasts” being auctioned off . Nakoma was so crippled in the hind legs and so malnourished that no one wanted him and he was sold for only $200.
Only a year earlier this little lion cub was the picture of health and vitality. His owner made money by selling people the opportunity to have their photograph taken with the cute and cuddly lion cub. In the state of Florida, however, it is against the law to allow contact with a big cat over 40 pounds. So Nakoma’s former owner purposely starved him and deprived him of vitamins to keep him under the weight limit. As a result of this deficiency, Nakoma developed paralysis in his hind legs. Crippled, unwanted and abused, he was found with gaping gashes in his body that had become infested with maggots. Yet despite all this, he was still a very lovable, talkative cub.
Big Cat Rescue took Nakoma into their care. But after a year and a half of proper nutrition and supplements, he was still having an increasingly hard time moving his back legs. It took him two hours just to walk across his pen by dragging himself with his front paws. X-rays, a spinal tap and MRI all came out negative, meaning that Nakoma’s paralysis had most likely been caused by the thiamin deficiency he endured.
On July 12, 1998, during his MRI, Nakoma tragically stopped breathing and died. His quiet passing may have been a blessing in disguise since nothing could be done for his crippled body. In fact, the vets said his condition would have continued to deteriorate until he could not move at all.
Today, Nakoma’s body rests in a grave on the site, adorned with his proud picture. This brave little king will never be forgotten and everybody can take solace in that Big Cat Rescue was at least able to make his last years a little better.
You’re invited to tour the facility and see Nakoma’s tomb, as well as view over 100 big cats from 16 different species who thanks to Big Cat Rescue are alive and well today. As an accredited non-profit educational rescue facility, Big Cat Rescue has the largest and most diverse collection of exotic cats in the world. Here you can actually get within three feet of these magnificent creatures. What’s more, you can personally sponsor any cat on the premises. Any donation is tax deductible and will help Big Cat Rescue continue to provide food, shelter, vet care and daily enrichment for the cats.
Female South American Cougar Date of Birth 4/1/95
Her owner wasn’t all Cleo outgrew. Over the years, her tiny harness had become so embedded in her skin, it was actually crushing her rib cage.
Cleo was once a cute, cuddly cub. But like many exotic cats owned by people, it wasn’t long before this South American Puma began growing and reverting to her wild nature. As she grew stronger, her former owner could not handle her enough to get the tiny harness off – and as the years passed it became completely embedded in Cleo’s skin. Painful as it sounds, the only way to free her was to cut the harness and the skin away with a razor. Worse yet, when Big Cat Rescue discovered Cleo, she was so malnourished that to anesthetize her for its removal would have surely killed her.
So, Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue, spent three days gently cutting away the nylon harness with a razor blade – from outside the cage. While the process was obviously painful to Cleo, as her skin would rip away with the harness, she held herself tightly against the fence to allow the cutting. Since Carole could not enter the cage with Cleo, she depended solely on the cat’s desire to be freed of the harness to bring her to the side of the cage. Cleo would growl and hiss in agonizing pain, but never turned to bite the helping hands.
Until 2006 Cleo’s skin had fully healed and she was a happy, healthy cat. She enjoyed a 1200 sq. ft. Cat-A-Tat with an underground den that rivals the inner chamber of the great pyramids. You could always find her playing and entertaining guests with her engaging personality. Today, Cleo’s body rests in the grave and she is finally free. This tiny little cougar will never be forgotten and everybody can take solace in that Big Cat Rescue was at least able to make her last years a whole lot better.
Nikita African Lioness D.O.B. 02/03/01 Arrived at Big Cat Rescue on 11/30/01
Nikita was found chained to the wall in a crack house during a drug bust in Tennessee. Because she had been confined to a concrete floor, she had huge swellings on her elbows that took months to heal. She was so thin you could carry her under one arm and she would only eat white rabbits, so she had a plethora of nutritional issues to deal with as well. The authorities took her to the Nashville Zoo at Grasmere, but she had been declawed and could not live with the zoo’s other lions, so they had to find a new home for her. Big Cat Rescue agreed to take her as well as three Bobcats who needed a home. Nikita had never seen other lions before she moved to Easy Street, but she has grown to love her new neighbors. Lions are social animals so we are gradually trying to introduce Nikita to Sarabi in hopes that one day they can be together. This photo was taken at the zoo before her arrival at Big Cat Rescue where she now has a 1/4 acre Cat-A-Tat full of trees and grass.
Willow Female Siberian Lynx
At only 4 weeks old, Willow was forced to learn how to swim…
In her own knee-deep urine and feces.
Fortunately, Willow was one of the lucky Siberian Lynx kittens who were discovered by Big Cat Rescue before it was too late.
Confined and shipped in a wire crate that was so small she couldn’t move, Willow was found swimming in urine up to her belly. Soiled, starving, sick and stressed, Willow was nursed back to health by the caring group at Big Cat Rescue. Today, Willow lives comfortably in a large den at the Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary.
Willow is one of the skinniest and willowiest of the group of Siberian Lynx and fits her name perfectly. She is one of the friendliest, most playful cats here and loves visitors. Willow’s survival story has a happy ending. However, she is just one of several hundred unwanted exotic cats who have been saved by Big Cat Rescue and now permanently reside at the Sanctuary. Unfortunately though, many other big cats may not be so lucky without the continued efforts of Big Cat Rescue and the support of compassionate people like you.
As an accredited non-profit educational sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue invites you to tour the facility and see Willow – upclose and personal. While here, you can view over 100 big cats representing 16 different species. They make up the largest and most diverse collection of exotic cats in the world. Get closer than you ever imagined — within 3 feet of these majestic creatures, who live in dens that have been designed to mimic their natural habitat. Any small donation you can make will help Big Cat Rescue continue to feed and care for these exotic cats. In return, we promise you’ll connect with the wild like never before.
Male Jungle Cat
Date of Birth: 2/2/99
Rambo came to Easy Street on 12/5/99. He was bred for the pet trade. People hybridize wild cats and domestic cats to feed the egos of people who want to own something unique. These hybrids suffer a myriad of health and emotional problems and are frequently unwanted by the time they are a year old. Rambo’s owner had sent him to live with her daughter who died unexpectedly and his primary caregiver became the 12 year old grand daughter. She and her relatives agreed that they did not want to see Rambo exploited as part of a hybridization breeding plan for profit and asked if he could come live on Easy Street. Here he has a 900 square foot Cat-A-Tat with tunnels, grasses, hills, bushes, trees and flowers. He is very talkative and loves to talk to guests.
Victory for the big cats!!!!
Just one week after the tragic death of a 10-year old North Carolina boy who was mauled by his aunt’s 400-pound pet tiger, President George W. Bush on December 19 signed into law the Captive Wildlife Safety Act.
This landmark legislation will increase protection for the public by banning the interstate trade in big cats for the pet trade. We hope that the enactment of this legislation marks a first decisive step in our larger campaign to halt the private ownership of big cats and other dangerous wild animals as pets.
California Representatives Buck McKeon (R-CA) and George Miller (D-CA) introduced the bill in the House; Senator James Jeffords (I-VT) and Senator John Ensign (R-NV) introduced companion legislation in the Senate. The new law prohibits the interstate sale and transportation of lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars and other dangerous exotic animals destined for the pet trade.
The new act will not prevent the continued in-state breeding and sale of big cats. The HSUS estimates that up to 15,000 big cats are living in the United States—kept as pets in small cages, basements, and barns; displayed outside gas stations and convenience stores to attract customers; used as guard animals by drug dealers; and held in squalid, unaccredited roadside zoos. Tigers kept as pets or held in roadside zoos suffer from abuse, poor diet, lack of veterinary care, and painful physical ailments from random inbreeding. A few lucky ones end up in accredited sanctuaries. Most are dumped into pseudo-shelters that operate like puppy mills. They breed the big cats to churn out cubs for sale on the Internet or at exotic animal auctions. They cost as little as $300—the price of a pure-bred puppy.
Many tigers end up being dumped in animal shelters or sanctuaries that are ill-equipped to care for them. Humane officers report a catalogue of misery suffered by the animals, from untreatable ailments requiring euthanasia to cats mutilated and crippled by ignorant owners who tried to declaw their pets with garden shears.
A total of 19 states have a flat ban on the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals; the remaining 31 states need to adopt similar prohibitions if the public is to be protected and wild animals are to be banished from squalid backyard pens. Public policy should not be driven by tragic circumstances, but by common-sense principles.
The states that already have bans are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming. All other states still allow exotic big cats as pets. If you live in one of the 31 states without a ban, I urge you to contact your legislators and encourage them to introduce a bill.
THE CAPTIVE WILDLIFE SAFETY ACT
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS
This bill addresses dangers to public safety posed by private ownership of wild and exotic animals and combats the inhumane treatment of these animals.
The legislation amends the Lacey Act to ban the interstate movement of lions, tigers, cougars, leopards, cheetahs, and bears for private use as “pets.” Accredited sanctuaries, zoos, circuses, humane societies, and other operations licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are exempt.
Thousands of lions, tigers, cougars and other big cats, as well as bears, are kept in backyards, garages, and even in homes. Many states do not restrict private ownership of these powerful carnivores that can never be domesticated. The result is a patchwork of laws and a thriving commercial trade in exotics by breeders touting these dangerous animals as “good pets.” They are easily obtained through newspaper ads, the Internet, and directly from breeders. Naïve and unsuspecting private owners who purchase them, often as adorable and seeming harmless cubs, soon rue the decision. There are innumerable reports of such “pets” that have maimed or killed their owners or members of the public, often children.
Big cats and bears cannot be humanely maintained by individuals without the resources or knowledge to care for them. They have very specific physical, behavioral, and nutritional needs that few laypersons know how to meet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states, “Large wild and exotic cats…are dangerous animals. Because of these animals’ potential to kill or severely injure…an untrained person should not keep them as pets. Doing so poses serious risks to family, friends, neighbors, and the general public.”
All groups that are knowledgeable about exotic animals, including the The American Sanctuary Association, The Global Federation of Sanctuaries, Humane Society, ASPCA, the Fund for Animals, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, the Animal Protection Institute, and the American Veterinary Medical Association, and Big Cat Rescue oppose private ownership of big cats and bears as pets and support S. 269 and H.R. 1006.
Where does your state stand? CLICK HERE