Ban Private Ownership of Big Cats


Target: Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

Goal: Cosponsor bill to end private possession and breeding of big cats.

The private ownership and breeding of big cats in the United States will be prohibited if a new bill introduced to Congress—the Big Cat Public Safety Act–is passed. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), “An estimated 10,000 big cats are kept as pets and for profit in places like basements, backyards and roadside zoos throughout the U.S. today.” And this is only a rough estimate. The actual number could be much higher.

If that is not shocking enough, consider that there may be more tigers held captive in the U.S. than living freely in the wild. The fact that this is even a possibility is nothing short of a tragedy.

There are a number of self-evident moral issues with keeping these animals in private hands. First, big cats are necessarily miserable when held in captivity. In the wild, tigers can maintain territory ranging from seven to 40 miles, which they need to hunt and mate. They also routinely wander outside of this territory. When held captive, for instance at a roadside zoo, they are forced to spend their lives in tiny cages with scarcely enough room to walk around.

Hundreds of big cats are bred (and abruptly torn from their mothers) every year in the U.S. so that people can hold and photograph them when they are cubs. Of course, the animals quickly become unmanageable, at which point they are sold off or simply killed.

There is also the obvious fact that privately owned big cats present a serious danger to the public. The IFAW reports that “in just the past two decades, dangerous incidents involving captive big cats in the U.S. have resulted in the deaths of 24 people; and over 200 additional humans have been mauled or injured.” Incidents like these will be prevented in the future if Congress passes the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 3546/S. 2541).

Please sign the below petition urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to cosponsor the proposed legislation. Please also write to your state’s congressional representatives asking them to do the same. Private ownership of big cats is a national issue that requires federal intervention.


Dear Mr. Ryan,

I am writing to urge you to lend your support to the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 3546/S. 2541), which would officially end the private exploitation of big cats in this country. Private ownership of tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs and jaguars is endemic in the United States. It is estimated that around 10,000 big cats are currently held captive in places like basements, backyards and roadside zoos.

Many of these beautiful animals are endangered, living under constant threat from habitat devastation, poaching and other destructive human activity. Breeding them for private use does nothing to redress this very urgent issue. What it does do is keep these majestic animals miserable for their entire lives. It moreover exposes the public to unnecessary danger, with hundreds of people being attacked over the past two decades alone.

Please help to end this inhumane practice by cosponsoring the Big Cat Public Safety Act and encouraging your colleagues in the House of Representatives to do the same.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Hafiz Issadeen

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  1. Not only is holding these big cats dangerous, but it’s cruel beyond words. Why do we allow this to happen knowing it’s not right? Doesn’t anyone take their job seriously anymore? Roadside Zoo’s are always cruel to the animals, and no one in power ever does a darn thing about it. Why are you people receiving wages when you don’t protect the animals? It’s the same with all the Wildlife and Game agencies. All they do is kill the animals their suppose to protect because their in the pockets of ranchers! Either do your jobs or get the hell out!



  3. Brenda Perez says:

    No one should be allowed to have big cats in their possession. Wild animals belong in the wild. If you love big cats so much, let them be free. Contribute to their conservation efforts. Adopt an adorable kitty from a shelter and save a life. Make it part of your family.

  4. What common’sense is it to want to keep a wild dangerous animal in the basement of your home or cooped up in a makeshift cage in your backyard. And what kind of common’sense would it make to not want to ban and outlaw this cruel treatment being imposed onto a wild exotic animal living in a cruel and unnatural environment. It is 2016, not the primitive ages anymore. Private owning of a wild exotic animal is against the modern standards for the ethical humane treatment for animals. They have no enrichment, no natural habitat, no proper health care and it is mentally abusive for ANY wild animal to be locked up in a small empty, barren concrete cage day in and day out their entire lives. “Wild” animals belong in the wild not in a domesticated environment. It is not fair in forcing a wild animal to conform to live in a domesticated environment than it would be to force a domesticated human to go out alone into the jungle to survive. More cats held captive in the US than in the wild? Is this common’sense? Roadside zoos have been in existence for decades with animals at the mercy of irresponsible, careless owners who only use the animals for profit only with next to no regulations nor rules at all giving the owners the liberty to treat the animals in any way as they please. Roadside zoos send the wrong message for children seeing a sad unhealthy wild animal in captivity out of its natural habitat. They learn nothing about who the animal really is and lacks interest and respect on how wild animals should be treated. It is wrong to allow our children to think that wild animals used for roadside entertainment are living an acceptable life, when evidence for the opposite is overwhelming. The interests and well being of the animals will always be secondary and used as an old primitive idea of the past as a money making gimmick from owners who skate by in tending to the animal’s welfare, forcing them to live in catastrophe conditions, should by now be a thing of the past. This silly and health hazard attraction should have been outlawed and banned years ago. It is appalling to see these majestic, astonishing, intelligent wild animals reduced to walking in small circles for hours with broken down spirits begging for food from tourists which the owners label as “entertainment.” Being in the modern era, I fail to understand why the authorities continue to let this primitive, abusive treatment to wild animals to still exist.

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