Good news: Big Cat Public Safety Act rules are now a reality

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on June 12, 2023 with 10 Comments

For over a decade, we have been fighting hard to prevent the suffering and abuse of captive big cats, confronting a dangerous industry and the individuals who take advantage of these animals. And we celebrated in December of last year when President Biden signed the Big Cat Public Safety Act into law.

The fundamental goals of the law are clear: to protect the big cats from the exploitative cub petting industry, protect the public from unqualified private owners who keep big cats as “pets” and strengthen the federal government’s ability to fight wildlife trafficking.

Implementing such a strong law requires committed advocacy as it takes several steps through the regulatory process, and we’re pleased to see that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just issued strong regulations that align with the law and its animal welfare and public safety imperatives:

  • The law prohibits physical contact between big cats and the public.
  • Private owners are now prohibited from breeding, selling or acquiring any new big cats. They must register their big cats before June 18 and must notify the Service if their animals die, change owner or move locations.
  • The Service has the authority to confiscate big cats from violators and place them in a wildlife sanctuary.

These directives are essential to phase out a shameful era of the treatment of big cats in the U.S. For years, the captive display industry bred big cats to produce cubs who were removed from their mothers at birth, passed around for photos and profit and then discarded after a few months when they became too large and dangerous to handle. They have been warehoused in small cages at roadside zoos, killed to make space for new animals or kept as “pets” in backyard cages throughout the country.

In addition to inadequate housing and care, big cats have escaped when they end up in the hands of unqualified people. Since 1990, more than 400 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats have occurred in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Five children and 19 adults have been killed, and hundreds of others have lost limbs or suffered other often traumatic injuries.

After years of advocating for better treatment of big cats, it’s heartening to see the Big Cat Public Safety Act fully implemented. We applaud the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for swift enforcement of this law and look forward to working with them to ensure big cats are protected.

If you know of a tiger, lion, cougar or other big cat who you think is being kept illegally or you see any facility offering cub petting, you can report it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by sending an email to You can also join us in thanking the agency for their work and encouraging strong enforcement against violators through the instructions in this Federal Register notice.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Animal Rescue and Care, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Alena Vandestaan says:

    It is amazingly heartening to see these Big Cat Public Safety Laws manifest into reality, backed by power of government enforcement! It is painful to fathom how many big cats have been suffering at the hands of IGNORANT humans! These noble creatures deserve every form of protection from being exploited, used, abused, neglected and eventually killed for the sake of base amusement of brutish people.

  2. Jack Rollens says:

    Fantastic job!! Years of effort by so many dedicated people 🙏

  3. Jackie Policara says:

    These animals were born to be free not controlled by humans! I’m happy to hear this news and I hope the law is enforced !

  4. Josephine Biagi says:

    Please stop harming these innocent precious animals NOW PLEASE

  5. Jack Rollens says:

    It is great news that this legislation finally passed. Now enforcement must be done quickly. Those people who have been abusing these nonhumans will try and find away yo continue their abuse!!

  6. Sherry Carr says:

    This makes my heart sing. Thank you for all your hard work to protect and help animals

  7. Rhonda K says:

    Just wondering about those people who raise and confiscate the big cat’s for those men who pay them to shoot the cats mostly while tied up. I saw a video awhile back on this. Made me so sick and a hateful rage I was just thinking how can people be so cruel and heartless. Those poor beautiful innocent animals. Have any of these people been made accountable? I’m thankful for what has been accomplished.

  8. Natalia Vann says:

    This is the best thing I’ve heard about Fish and Wildlife in a long time. I join you in commending them for this. I sincerely wish that they will continue with this kind of positive action. I just downloaded the Federal Register notice and will comment to them asap. Thank you, HSUS and thank you, Kitty Block and Sarah Amundson!

  9. William Marcogliese says:

    Great Things For Our Feline Friends Next To our Little Felines We Keep In Hiudy

  10. Karyn Wittal says:

    So, from my understanding, those who already “own” (a)big cats continue to keep them?
    If so, this is the next step I believe, to rescue all and send them to sanctuaries across the US. We have the land, it’s our duty as human beings to be the leaders of the planet, and make it better. Not a single person should have a lion, tiger, or any other wild animal as a “pet”.

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