The alternate that ‘Tiger King’ made infamous will quickly be illegal

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The alternate that ‘Tiger King’ made infamous will quickly be illegal

The alternate that ‘Tiger King’ made infamous will quickly be illegal
  • Animals
  • Wildlife Explore

Landmark U.S. guidelines bans cub petting, tiger selfies, and breeding tall cats as pets. What does that imply for the thousands of captive cats?

Published December 20, 2022

7 min read

The profitable cub-petting alternate that the Netflix docuseries Tiger King thrust into the highlight is now illegal in the United States. 

The Massive Cat Public Security Act—which applies to lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrids of these species—was as soon as signed into law nowadays with the president’s signature. The bill prohibits the observe of cub petting and any recent breeding of tall cats for non-public possession. It additionally makes it illegal for individuals of the final public to possess terminate contact with the animals, akin to taking selfies while bottle-feeding tiger cubs. 

Licensed zoos, sanctuaries, and academic institutions with tall cats may per chance well well continue to characteristic. Companies may per chance well well level-headed ticket their animals nonetheless cannot supply the final public hands-on experiences. Non-public homeowners of tall cats may per chance well well also defend their animals, nonetheless no additional breeding will seemingly be allowed, and they also cannot manufacture extra cats. Homeowners must narrate the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Provider about their animals within 180 days of the law’s passage.

Earlier iterations of this animal welfare bill, first presented a decade ago, stagnated until Tiger King. The Home of Representatives passed the bill in July, and the White Home supported it publicly. It cleared the Senate earlier this month.

Kate Dylewsky, senior policy manual for presidency affairs on the Animal Welfare Institute, says the Netflix docuseries is sensationalist and “should always possess focused on the struggling of the animals.” But, she provides, it raised public consciousness about animal welfare issues in the cub-petting alternate and was as soon as “sooner or later a important ingredient for getting the bill all over the extinguish line.” 

With the wonderful licenses, breeding and exhibiting tall cats and petting cubs as a lot as a obvious age has been apt. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is to blame for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, has acknowledged that licensed facilities may per chance well well ticket cubs at roughly eight weeks of age and level-headed observe regulatory requirements, even supposing the agency doesn’t aid it. Contact with cubs below a month feeble, “collectively with public feeding and going through,” has been prohibited.

But grand of the alternate’s oversight has fallen to the states, in fragment since the USDA doesn’t modify wild animals saved as non-public pets. Twelve states had already banned public contact with tall cats, some others regulated the observe, and just a few had no regulations in any admire, fixed with the Humane Society of the United States. The group estimates that the overwhelming majority of the roughly 4,500 captive tall cats in the U.S. are held in roadside zoos, with an unknown number seemingly saved as pets, both illegally or in states with no appropriate guidelines. (Learn extra: Captive tigers in the U.S. outnumber these in the wild. It’s a problem.)

Never-ending cub breeding

Selfies with tall cats, as Tiger King made decided, possess been a serious supply of earnings. But animal welfare advocates possess sharply criticized alternate homeowners for, among a bunch of things, tempo-breeding cubs and atmosphere apart newborns from their mothers for tourist photos. 

“It’s overall observe to exercise cubs for portray-ops until they’re too correctly-organized to retain,” says Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “They are then dumped or sold, which merely perpetuates the cycle,” she says, adding that unwanted cats in overall languish in immoral facilities and even are killed. Others possess ended up as pets in backyards and basements and may per chance well well pose a public security threat that local law enforcement and communities are sick-geared as a lot as deal with. Since 1990, greater than 400 dreadful incidents possess took place engaging captive tall cats, fixed with the Humane Society of the United States.  

Some discarded animals may per chance well well very correctly be smuggled into the sunless marketplace for his or her body parts, perpetuating build a question to for merchandise akin to tiger bone wine and medicinal paste that are a serious threat to wild tigers, says Leigh Henry, director of plants and fauna policy on the World Wildlife Fund. The items are sought in China and in other locations. “Given the shortcoming of law, it may per chance perhaps per chance perhaps well be easy for these tigers to filter into the illegal tiger alternate,” she says.

Handiest an estimated 4,000 tigers dwell in the wild nowadays.

The thousands of captive tigers in the U.S. possess been a supply of competitors correct through global discussions about shutting down tiger farms in China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, Henry says. Worldwide locations possess requested why the U.S. hasn’t ended its have alternate. Passage of the recent bill, she says, “takes away that deflection level, and we can expectantly originate development.”

Many facilities highlighted in Tiger King possess been forced to give up their animals on yarn of violations of the Animal Welfare Act, reducing the need of famend cub-petting choices. Now, simplest two U.S. exhibitors advertise cub petting for selfies, fixed with the Humane Society, even supposing extra may per chance well well supply them without publicly promoting them.  

Amundson urges any tall cat homeowners who no longer wish to defend up their animals to position them in humane sanctuaries approved by the World Federal of Animal Sanctuaries.

This story first printed on December 9, 2022 and was as soon as updated on December 20, 2022 to repeat that the bill has now been signed into law.

The National Geographic Society supports Wildlife Explore, our investigative reporting mission focused on plants and fauna crime and exploitation. A 2019 story in National Geographic by Explorers Sharon Guynup and Steve Frigid weather and subsequent reporting by Wildlife Explore shined a gentle on captive tigers in the U.S. The magazine story was as soon as distributed to every member of Congress. Read extra Wildlife Explore reviews right here, and ship tricks, feedback, and story suggestions to Learn about the National Geographic Society’s nonprofit mission at

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