Private ownership of big cats as pets or in roadside zoos is an animal welfare problem as well as a public safety issue. Many of us have likely seen photos or videos on the internet of people posing with tiger or lion cubs, a practice recently put in the spotlight by the Netflix documentary series “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” Behind the photo ops and sensationalism, however, is a dangerous cycle of exploitation and abuse within roadside zoos, in which cubs are dragged away from their mothers as newborns and subject to physical punishment to discourage their natural behaviors. After just a few months, when they outgrow their entertainment value, they face a future of further abuse or even an early death.
The individuals who exploit big cats have been known to misrepresent themselves as conservationists. However, their animals are often inbred or cross-bred, and would never be allowed to return to the wild, let alone contribute to the conservation of a specific lineage. Private ownership of tigers, lions or other big cats is also dangerous to the public and first responders. There have been hundreds of human injuries, mauling, and even deaths in the U.S. involving big cats. To protect both people and big cats, the best thing we can do is support and promote the Big Cat Public Safety Act.