We have a lot of them in Texas, and as is the way in this state, there’s little to no regulation of them.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas, announced on Monday that he is co-sponsoring the Big Cat Public Safety Act. The legislation would tighten restrictions regarding the private ownership, exhibition, and breeding of big cats like lions, tigers, and jaguars.
The move comes as the Netflix docu-series “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” grips millions of Americans stuck in quarantine. The seven-part series, which tells the bizarre story of an Oklahoma Tiger breeder named Joe Exotic as well as other big cat owners, broke records as the most-watched title on Netflix for the longest period of time.
The private ownership of tigers and other dangerous wild animals is a particularly acute problem in Texas, where regulations are incredibly lax and the rules that do exist are loosely enforced. The exact number of tigers in Texas is impossible to know given that a large number of them are unregistered, but many estimates place it in the thousands. According to some, the Lone Star State has more tigers in captivity than the total number of tigers in the wild.
Just recently, on March 25, authorities in South Texas seized several exotic animals during a drug bust, including a Bengal tiger. One law enforcement described the location as a “pseudo-narco zoo.”
Some kind of federal legislation protecting exotic animals held by private owners has been needed for a long time. If it took Tiger King to get legislation like this passed – and note, Joe Exotic treated his big cats badly – then so be it. I should note that there is a state law called the Dangerous Wild Animal Act, which was passed in 2001, and I have since received this press release from the Texas Humane Legislation Network calling for it to be updated and strengthened. The Observer has more.