In February, two California representatives introduced the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act” to the House of Representatives. Howard McKeon, a republican from Santa Clarita, and Loretta Sanchez, a democrat from Garden Grove, are supporting the bill as a way to protect the public while ensuring naturally wild cats live in proper conditions.
The horrifying deaths of 49 wild animals in Zanesville, Ohio, released on an unlicensed preserve by an unstable owner, recently brought an alarming trend to light –the breeding and selling of wild cats as domestic pets in the U.S. The representatives took notice, and their bi-partisan bill was written to ensure that dangerous big cats do not become a threat to public safety, reduce conservation efforts or remain in unhealthy living conditions. Only nine states currently have laws enforcing penalties for the ownership of wild animals as pets. Wild animal laws in the remaining states are weak or nonexistent.
The act would make private possession of big cats illegal, though it would not apply to accredited zoos and other facilities properly caring for and restraining the animals. The bill would also require anyone currently possessing a big cat to register the animal with the USDA if they intend to keep it. Breeding of wild cats outside of accredited zoos or research institutions would be outlawed. Owners in violation of the pet law could be subjected to $20,000 fines and five years in jail as well as confiscation of their animals.
Senator John Kerry will soon be introducing a companion bill to the Senate. The legislation has the full support of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Born Free USA, the Humane Society of the United States and Big Cat Rescue.
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