How Many Tigers are in the US?
I am frequently asked that question and the answer is that no one really knows. Here's why:
1. There are two kinds of tiger owners in the U.S. Pet owners and commercial owners. To be a commercial owner you have to obtain a USDA license. It is a one page form that asks for name, address and phone. The cost is $30 (up to $750 depending on the number of animals you hold). The Big Cat Q & A sheet that USDA compiled in 2004 suggests that you have to have some experience, but doesn't require any documentation other than just saying you do.
2. USDA did a census, once in 2004, where they asked USDA licensees how many tigers they held. It was a voluntary survey, but based on what licensees admitted, there were roughly 5,000 tigers and about 200 of those were in AZA accredited zoos. USDA doesn't regulate pet owners so they were not surveyed. Here is a list of the places we know have tigers, but no census has ever been done for lions, ligers, leopards, etc., and no private owners are listed here; just USDA facilities for the most part. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-rQZK2lBPese4Lyq4mcS_g75Zjc_l0YxYo5wD6f_IOo/edit?usp=sharing
Tiger Cub Found Wandering in California
And then there are stories like this one, that aired on Sept. 4, 2015 when a 3 month old tiger was found wandering the streets of Hemet, CA before being turned in to the Ramona Humane Society for care.
The cub was sent to Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary which is not accredited. It is a mystery as to why the cub was not originally sent to one of the accredited facilities in California, but within a few days authorities did send the cub to Lions, Tigers and Bears in Alpine, CA which is accredited.
The cub is doing well despite obvious signs of being inbred, not well nourished and having been illegally declawed by his former owners.
Tigers in the U.S.
This video was posted in Oct 2010 and still the USFWS has not rescinded the generic tiger loophole, the USDA has still not banned contact with cubs, which we believe is a clear violation of the Animal Welfare Act, and Congress has still not banned the private possession of big cats. The Big Cat Coalition estimates there are 200 cubs a year bred for pay to play schemes, so five years of government inaction means more than 1000 big cats have been added to the crisis. This year has to be the year that we just don't let up until all three take action to end the abuse.
Do your part at StopBigCatAbuse.com
How the unregulated trade in U.S. tigers is killing tigers in the wild