In 2011 Sheriff Matt Lutz of Zanesville, Ohio and his deputies were faced with the horrible task of shooting most of the 56 dangerous animals, including 38 big cats, let loose by unlicensed private owner Terry Thompson. Please listen to the three-minute video below in which Sheriff Lutz speaks about the incident and notes that “handling exotic animals is not part of our training, and neither should it be.”

While Zanesville is the most famous of these incidents, there have been many around the country you have not heard of. Only some make the news, like the recent incident in Houston where off duty deputy Wes Manion faced a loose tiger in his neighborhood pictured below.


As Sheriff Lutz points out, the impact on the Department and on the individual Deputies goes beyond the danger and the financial cost associated with these incidents. Having to shoot one if these majestic animals can be a traumatic experience leading to PTSD, as some of his officers unfortunately experienced. In addition, tigers are among the most iconic and beloved species. The Department and individual deputies can face backlash from a public that loves the animals and does not understand that animals do not drop instantly from a tranquilization dart like they see on television.


The federal Big Cat Public Safety Act (HR 263/S 1210) does two simple things.

First, it ends using big cat cubs for petting and photo ops. That business, which subjects the cubs to a miserable life, drives the breeding and results in cats who are discarded after a few months because they are too big ending up as “pets” like the Houston tiger.

Second, the bill phases out ownership of big cats by people who are not licensed by USDA as exhibitors, i.e., phases out having them as pets.

Ending the cub petting and phasing out private ownership would enormously reduce the risk that you and your deputies, or our fellow Sheriffs around the country, would have to encounter one of these 300+ pound predators.

A major reason the bill is doing very well in Congress this session on a bipartisan basis is the vocal support of first responders around the country. This includes national letters of endorsement from organizations like NSA and State Sheriffs’ Associations like this letter from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association. Other examples are listed below.

But, when legislators are approached about a bill, the first thing they ask is “how does it affect my district?” Having the endorsement of local Sheriffs is critical to getting the bill over the finish line.

Because there is no tracking of these privately owned big cats, you may never know when an incident could occur. Whether your County has this risk or not, you can help fellow Sheriffs around the country who do face this risking by helping us get your Representative and your Senators to support the bill by providing us with a short letter to send to them.

We would be very happy to help you draft such a letter. A few minutes of your time to do this could avoid many dangerous incidents. To explore writing such a letter with no obligation at all please contact Howard Baskin of Big Cat Rescue at or call/text 813-505-5565.

On behalf of the cats and first responders around the country, THANK YOU for taking a few minutes to discuss this with us!


National Sheriffs’ Association
Fraternal Order of Police
Small & Rural Law Enforcement Executive Association
Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association
Peace Officers Research Association of California
Iowa State Sheriffs & Deputies’ Association
Kansas Sheriffs’ Association
Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association
Maine Sheriffs’ Association
Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association (Ohio)
Texas Municipal Police Association
Vermont Sheriffs’ Association
West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association
National Animal Control Association
Florida Animal Control Association
Illinois Animal Control Association
Texas Animal Control Association
Virginia Animal Control Association
City of San Antonio Texas Animal Care Services Department


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One Comment

  1. Carole/ BCR,
    Can you tell me what happens to a Tiger when it is neutered? Lions lose their manes (sp?) what does it do to a tigers appearance? (I know the good it does for captive tigers & lions)

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