IS IT LEGAL TO TRANSFER TIGERS ACROSS STATE LINES?
We frequently get asked is it “legal” under federal law to transfer a tiger to a facility in another state. The answer is not a simple yes or no, and in addition to what the law says there are some serious practical issues when it comes to enforcement. There are two federal laws that apply, each discussed below. But, in brief:
– USDA licensed exhibitors can transfer tigers to another USDA licensee under the Captive Wildlife Safety Act (CWSA). However, this does not mean the transfer is legal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
– The US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) interprets the ESA as only prohibiting the sale of tigers across state lines without applying to FWS for a Captive Bred Wildlife (CBW) permit. This creates a very serious enforcement issue and loophole because it is legal under this interpretation of the ESA to give a tiger to someone else in another state. So sellers either take untraceable cash payment or arrange for inflated reimbursement of transport or other costs to evade the law.
The bottom line is that a USDA licensed roadside zoo can transfer a tiger to another USDA licensed roadside zoo as long as they either (1) officially call it a gift and make it difficult for FWS to prove it was a sale, or (2) if they obtain a CBW permit from FWS.
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