Odds for Senate approval look good this time
WASHINGTON D.C.––Clearing the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 278-138, the Big Cat Public Safety Act pushed since 2007 by Carole and Howard Baskin of Big Cat Rescue appears likely to win U.S. Senate approval as well, and be signed into law by President Joe Biden by the end of 2022.
Only if Senate support for the Big Cat Public Safety Act splits along strictly partisan lines does it appear likely to be defeated.
Gained more Republican support
The Big Cat Public Safety Act went before the full House with 259 co-sponsors, including 52 Republicans.
The bill picked up 19 votes from non-sponsors, and in the final roll call count attracted six more votes than in December 2020.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act passed in 2020 by a vote of 272-114, but was not raised for a Senate vote during the “lame duck” session that followed the November 2020 national election
(See Big Cat Public Safety Act clears House after Big Cat Rescue mauling.)
Sixty-three Republicans joined all Democrats in approving the Big Cat Public Safety Act in 2022, introduced by Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois, and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania.
Likely to win 68 to 74 Senate votes
If the Senate voting follows the same geographic distribution of votes that prevailed in the House of Representatives, there are likely to be from 68 to 74 Senators favoring the Big Cat Public Safety Act, against 26 to 32 opponents.
The strongest House opposition came from ten heavily Republican states with entrenched exotic animal breeding and exhibition industries: Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
Not all delegations from states deeply involved in exotic cat breeding and exhibition opposed the Big Cat Public Safety Act, however.
Nineteen of the 27 members of the Florida delegation to the House of Representatives, twelve of the 18 Pennsylvania delegates, and 48 of the 53 California delegates favored the Big Cat Public Safety Act.
What does the Big Cat Public Safety Act do?
The Big Cat Public Safety Act adds to the John F. Lacey Act of 1900, the longtime cornerstone wildlife conservation law in the U.S., a provision that, “It is unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce, or in a manner substantially affecting interstate or foreign commerce, or to breed or possess, any prohibited wildlife species.”
Exempted are “(A) an entity exhibiting animals to the public under a Class C license from the Department of Agriculture, or a Federal facility registered with the Department of Agriculture that exhibits animals, if such entity or facility holds such license or registration in good standing;
“(B) a State college, university, or agency, or a State-licensed veterinarian,” and
“(C) a wildlife sanctuary that cares for prohibited wildlife species,” providing that it has federal nonprofit status, “does not commercially trade in any prohibited wildlife species, including offspring, parts, and byproducts of such animals; and does not breed any prohibited wildlife species.”
Grandfather clause & White House backing
There is a further exemption for anyone who “has custody of any prohibited wildlife species solely for the purpose of expeditiously transporting the prohibited wildlife species to a person described in this paragraph with respect to the species; or an entity or individual that is in possession of any prohibited wildlife species that was born before the date of the enactment of the Big Cat Public Safety Act,” if the animals are registered with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service within 180 days of the Big Cat Public Safety Act becoming law, and if the permit holder “does not breed, acquire, or sell any prohibited wildlife species after the date of the enactment of such Act.”
“The White House has issued a formal statement of support for the bill, indicating that President Biden will sign it into law if it comes to his desk,” reported Emily Brooks for The Hill.
“The bill is supported not only by animal welfare groups, but also by a number of law enforcement organizations, like the National Sheriff’s Association,” Brooks mentioned.
“Takes aim at cub petting”
The Big Cat Public Safety Act, Brooks summarized, “takes aim at the cub petting industry, in which members of the public pay to play or take photos with tiger cubs or other big cats.”
The cub-petting industry is the major source of dangerous and exotic wild cats in public hands, repeatedly exposed by Big Cat Rescue since 1995, and by ANIMALS 24-7 for more than 15 years before Big Cat Rescue debuted.
Despite those many exposés, over many years, and countless others by mainstream media, cub-petting and the other issues associated with private possession of dangerous and exotic wild cats did not really resonate with much of the public until the runaway commercial success of The Tiger King docudrama television series in 2020-2021, leading to many also successful spinoffs and rebuttals.
(See Carole Baskin & Big Cat Rescue win custody of “Tiger King” Joe Exotic’s tigers, “Joe Exotic” gets 22 years in a cage for murder plot), “Joe Exotic” tried to kill me: Carole Baskin tells her own story, See the video exposé that sent Jack Hanna into demented retirement––free!, Tiger exhibitor Marcus Cook: ex-cop has dodged the law for 20 years, “Tiger Kings” lose stripes in Nevada, Oklahoma, & Texas, Tim Stark: 120-count conviction, yet roadside zoo remains open, “Joe Exotic” gets 22 years in a cage for murder plot, “Joe Exotic” allegedly thought he could get away with murder, “Ban white tigers & lion/tiger hybrids,” sanctuarians beg feds, and Lions, Tigers & Bears, heroic efforts, & Big Cat Rescue.)
Exotic cat breeding & petting flees to Mexico
Unfortunately, as cub-petting, sub-standard roadside zoos, traveling wildlife shows, and alleged “sanctuaries” that actually breed and sell dangerous large and exotic cats appear to be heading for the exits in the U.S., they are––like practically every other American vice––rapidly establishing themselves in Mexico.
Part of the allure for dangerous large and exotic cat owners and breeders is the opportunity to cater to the gullible, especially American tourists, in an environment with less regulatory enforcement and reputedly more easily bribed officials.
Another part of the attraction is that dangerous large and exotic cat exhibition is an easy cover for laundering drug money, as exposed by U.S. federal charges brought on June 3, 2022 against longtime exhibitor and Tiger King profile subject Kevin Antle, 62, who promotes himself as “Bhagavan” and “Doc” Antle.
(See Busted again: the secret life of “Tiger King” Kevin “Doc” Antle on the lam from Iowa.)
Black Jaguar White Lion busted
The Mexican federal Attorney General’s Office for Environmental Protection is fighting back, however.
The agency on June 7, 20022 “started hauling away 177 lions, tigers, jaguars and other exotic big cats who were found at an animal rescue center in the mountains on Mexico City’s south side,” CBS News and Associated Press jointly reported.
Also impounded were 25 other animals, reportedly including 17 monkeys, two coyotes, and several dogs and donkeys.
“Dozens of heavily armed city police raided the Black Jaguar White Tiger animal sanctuary after images of rail-thin, distressed and injured lions circulated on social media,” CBS News and Associated Press said.
Mexican Association of Zoos president Ernesto Zazueta told the Reuters news service that, “It all started with a worker who had been laid off recently, who had lots of video evidence showing abused animals.
“Several of our facilities are already saturated with wild animals from various rescues, ranging from circuses to hundreds of seizures from illegal trafficking,” Zazueta said.
“But we cannot allow these animals, many of which are endangered, to continue in these deplorable health conditions and malnourishment.”
The animals were in “a horrible situation,” Zazueta continued. “Some of their tails are missing; they had been eaten. Others lack an eye, an ear. They are very, very thin, and dehydrated.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called the Black Jaguar White Tiger operation a “false sanctuary,” telling media that it had long complained of alleged abusive practices there, including lions, tigers and jaguars were “forced to interact with humans for ‘selfies’ or videos.
Added Salvador Rivera of Border Report, “The Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation, with offices in Los Angeles, is run by a controversial figure named Eduardo Serio.
“Celebrities such as the Kardashians, Paris Hilton and others have donated large sums of money to Serio to help care for rescued lions, tigers and other big cats.
“Serio,” according to Mexican prosecutors, “is now wanted for the extreme abandonment and mistreatment of hundreds of large felines.”
“Income fell during COVID-19 crisis”
Filing IRS Form 990 in the U.S. since 2016, the Black Jaguar-White Tiger Foundation reported raising $851,934 that year, more than $1 million in each of the next three years, and almost $1.5 million in 2018, the peak year. The most recent Form 990 available is from 2019.
Serio, who describes himself on LinkedIn as a “Mexican-born businessman,” told Mexico News Daily that Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation revenue fell 70% during the 2020-2021 COVID-19 crisis.
The Black Jaguar White Tiger compound was raided, CBS News and Associated Press mentioned, after “a 450-pound tiger wandered streets in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit,” in June 2022, “ and a man died from being mauled when he tried to pet a captive tiger in a [drug] cartel-dominated area of western Michoacan state.”
On a more hopeful note, Animal Defenders International in June 2022 flew 33 African lions impounded from illegal circuses in Peru and Colombia to the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo state, South Africa.
Jamaka Petzak says
All of us who have been advocating for this since 2007 pray and wish for its passage after such a long, long struggle!
Sharing with gratitude and hope.
I am cautiously hopeful for its passage and hope, like you, that it doesn’t take a partisan shift.
The passage of the Big Cat act would indicate that some good actually came out of the “Tiger King” mini-series; I and many other animal advocates had seen it as a huge wasted opportunity. Much of the culture saw it as a humorous reality TV series, with “Joe Exotic” being lifted as a quirky anti-hero, instead of an expose of a truly shadowy and cruel underground business.
One of my state’s representatives actually sent out an email misidentifying the Big Cat Public Safety Act as the “Tiger King bill,” and using it as an example of stupid things “liberals” support. I wrote a polite but firm reply asking him to look into the bill and the very serious reasons for its creation. Clearly some other elected officials have already made the connection and are supporting its passage.