Is it legal to sell tigers?

When Darnell Docket,  a player for the Arizona Cardinals, became what we consider to be the poster child for over paid sports’ figures, behaving badly toward animals, by announcing that he had bought a tiger to show off at games, it caused a lot of people to ask the question, “Is it legal to buy a tiger?”

TigerNarakAfter spending the last 20 years rescuing lions, tigers and other exotic cats, I am left bewildered by the existing laws; or maybe, more precisely, by the lack of enforcement of existing laws.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states that:

“Unless you are exempt under the Act, you cannot sell a cat to someone in another State. You may be able to make such a sale within your State, unless State or local laws prohibit such sales.”  Darnell is in Arizona, according to Commission Rule R12-4-402, it is unlawful to import restricted live wildlife (incl. tigers) into the state without a special permit or license from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.  Arizona does not issue permits to people to own tigers as pets.

The penalties for breaking the law are pretty clear:

“If you import or export a big cat or sell or buy a cat or cats worth more than $350 in interstate commerce, you have committed a felony. You could be sent to prison for up to five years and ordered to pay a fine of up to $250,000. Fines for organizations can be as high as $500,000.”

The only parties who are exempt are USDA licensees, accredited sanctuaries that do not allow anyone to touch the animals, a state college, university or agency, a state licensed veterinarian or a state licensed rehabber.  We don’t think that Darnell Dockett qualifies for any of these exemptions.  So why is he bragging openly on Twitter that he has bought a tiger and that he intends to bring it to his games, rather than being arrested and fined?

Why hasn’t anyone investigated who the seller of this tiger was as well, since it would appear that they broke the law by selling a tiger to someone who does not appear to properly licensed?



U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Office of Law Enforcement
4401 N. Fairfax Drive,
Mail Stop LE-3000
Arlington, VA 22203
Phone: (703) 358 1949

Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway
Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000

USFWS Factsheet

USFWS Final Rule

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