Fifteen-year campaign nears climax for Howard & Carole Baskin
WASHINGTON D.C.––U.S. President Joe Biden on December 20, 2022 endorsed the Big Cat Public Safety Act into law.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act on December 6, 2022 was unanimously passed by the U.S. Senate on a voice vote, after clearing the House of Representatives by a vote of 278-134 in July 2022.
Approved unanimously then by Democrats in the House, for the second time, the Big Cat Public Safety Act also won the support of 63 Republicans in the House. All the opposition votes came from Republicans.
White House support
That Biden would sign the Big Cat Public Safety Act was never in doubt.
Announced the White House on July 26, 2022, “The Administration supports the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would build on existing laws that protect big cats like tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, and other wild animals living in captivity in the United States.
“This bipartisan legislation,” the White House said, “would limit ownership of these animals to zoos, sanctuaries, universities, and agencies.”
Prohibits direct contact
The Big Cat Public Safety Act would also, the White House continued, “prohibit direct contact between the public and any big cats” in zoo, sanctuary, university, or agency possession.
“The bill would exempt current owners of big cats from these prohibitions [on keeping them], and require they be registered to ensure community safety.
These provisions are nw.
Ends “abusive use of tiger cubs for petting & photo ops”
Exulted Howard and Carole Baskin in a joint statement on behalf of Big Cat Rescue, after having campaigned for passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act since 2007, “First,” on endorsement by President Biden, “it puts an end to the abusive use of tiger cubs and other big cat cubs for petting and photo ops.
“Cubs used for this purpose are ripped from their mothers at or close to birth, as shown in one scene in the Tiger King documentary series, deprived of the health protections of their mothers’ milk, and often deprived of sleep and physically punished to discourage their natural behaviors.
“There is no tracking of how many of them die in the process,” the Baskins noted, “or where they end up when, a few months later, they are too big and dangerous for petting.
“Phases out private ownership of big cats”
“Second, “ the Baskins continued, “the bill phases out private ownership of big cats by unlicensed owners who keep them as ‘pets’ in what are typically miserable conditions in back yards or worse. Current owners of big cats are ‘grandfathered’ and can keep their existing animals. But they must register the existing animals with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and may not breed or acquire more.
“Thus, private owners can no longer serve as the dumping ground for cubs who ‘age out’ of petting operations. Within a decade most of the thousands of big cats living this way will have passed away, and in twenty years no cats will be living in this kind of misery.”
Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin called the Big Cat Public Safety Act “The number one goal of my thirty years of advocacy to stop the mistreatment of big cats. This has been particularly true in the last twenty years during which my husband Howard joined me and took over managing our legislative efforts,” Carole Baskin said.
“Narcissistic, abusive, dangerous men”
“The passage of the bill is the successful culmination of many years of battling against narcissistic, abusive, dangerous men who dominated this cruel trade and did everything they could to stop its passage, including wanting to intimidate, discredit, and even kill me.”
Among those “narcissistic, abusive, dangerous men” might be counted Joseph Schreibvogel Maldonado, now two years into serving a 22-year prison sentence for trying to hire a contract killer to shoot Carole Baskin; Kevin Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle, currently facing federal money-laundering charges (see Busted again: the secret life of “Tiger King” Kevin “Doc” Antle on the lam from Iowa); former Wildlife In Need exotic animal park owner/operator Tim Stark, fined $340,000 in 2020 for more than 120 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (see “Tiger Baby Playtime” promoter Tim Stark meets stark reality in court); and Jeff Lowe, whose big cat exhibition facilities have been shut down in several states. (See “Tiger Kings” lose stripes in Nevada, Oklahoma, & Texas.)
Thanks to National Sheriffs’ Association
The Baskins thanked “the many people and organizations who joined us in this battle. This included our own staff and volunteers who ran Big Cat Rescue under the leadership of my daughter, Jamie Veronica Murdock, and other sanctuaries, other animal welfare organization, and many individual animal advocates and donors.
“It also included, critically, the National Sheriffs’ Association, many other first responders around the country, t he bill sponsors in the House and Senate, and all of those legislators who supported the bill. I am also grateful,” Carole Baskin added, “that apparently I am harder to intimidate or kill than some thought.”
Many other animal advocacy organizations stepped up immediately to claim a share of the credit for winning passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, including the Humane Society of the U.S., the subsidiary Humane Society Legislative Fund, and the Animal Wellness Foundation.
PETA pledges to go after baby bear, otter, & sloth exhibitors
Said PETA Foundation general counsel for captive animal law enforcement Brittany Peet, through PETA media division manager David Perle, “This law caps off years of PETA legal actions that resulted in the rescue of 75 big cats, took down Tiger King villains Tim Stark and Jeff Lowe, and established that big cat cub petting violates the Endangered Species Act.
“PETA has now set its sights on ending photo ops with baby bears, otters, sloths, and other exploited animals who deserve to be with their families, and it urges everyone never to give a dime to animal exploiters.”
Operations of that sort are already proliferating, including one called the Northwest Wildlife Sanctuary, recently opened by former tiger exhibitor William David “Dave” Coleburn in a 60-odd-year-old building built as a bar, adjacent to Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island, Washington.
“Tiger Kings” themselves ensured passage
All had something to do with the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, but after the Baskins the most influential voices were probably Tiger King documentary series makers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, whose portrayal of Schreibvogel Maldonado was largely sympathetic, while their portrayal of Carole Baskin mostly was not.
Despite that, the immense popularity of the Tiger King documentary series created an audience for many spin-offs and follow-ups, including the Baskins’ own version of events, while Schreibvogel Maldonado, Antle, Stark, Lowe, and the other cub-petting and tiger exhibition promoters spotlighted by the series managed to make themselves thoroughly repugnant to the sensibilities of most law-abiding Americans.
Did someone slip the Senate opponents a cat laxative?
“Republican opponents of the Big Cat Public Safety Act have argued that it would duplicate federal processes,” reported Emily Brooks of The Hill, “and proposed giving the Department of Agriculture authority to regulate the cats, rather than the Department of the Interior.
“Senators Mike Lee of Utah), Rand Paul of Kentucky, and James Lankford of Oklahoma,” all Republicans, “had placed holds on the bill that held up consideration in the Senate,” Brooks explained. “But the senators lifted their holds, allowing it to pass by unanimous consent, just weeks before the end of the Congressional session.
“After the new year in the new Congress, the bill would have had to go through both chambers again in order to pass.”
(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, “Joe Exotic” gets 22 years in a cage for murder plot, “Joe Exotic” allegedly thought he could get away with murder, Lions, Tigers & Bears, heroic efforts, & Big Cat Rescue and “Ban white tigers & lion/tiger hybrids,” sanctuarians beg feds.)