'Tiger King' bill banning big cat ownership passes in House

Rachel Yang
·2 min read

Netflix

It looks like aspiring Joe Exotics might have to let their cats out of the bag cage.

By a 272-114 vote on Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban private ownership of big cats. The legislation, formally called the Big Cat Safety Act, was discussed in Netflix's hit docuseries Tiger King.

The hit series follows controversial and eccentric former zookeeper Joe Exotic, who's currently serving a 22-year sentence for a murder-for-hire plot to kill his nemesis, Carole Baskin. Animal activists like Baskin have been trying to push the bill through for years, and the successful House effort is no doubt thanks in part to Netflix's spotlight on the topic and public backlash against Exotic.

The legislation would also make it illegal for someone to breed or own big cats without an animal exhibition license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Current owners would be able to keep their animals if they register with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and follow federal regulations, but the law would restrict most contact between the public and the animals.

As shown in the doc, Exotic was forced to sell his zoo to Jeff Lowe. This summer, a judge handed control of the property to Baskin and her husband's Big Cat Rescue Corp, and later Lowe announced the old zoo would be closing to become a Tiger King-related film set.

The bill still has to head to the Senate, and with two weeks left in session and other big issues on the docket, its future is still uncertain.

In a statement to EW, Baskin said she was "thrilled" about the bill's passage.

"We are thrilled that the Big Cat Public Safety Act passed the House with bipartisan support to protect the big cats from abuse, the public and first responders from injuries and death, and the tiger in the wild from extinction," she said. "None of these important goals are partisan in any way and we hope the Senate will follow suit quickly to make it into law."

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