WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – Big cat ownership is a hot topic in Washington D.C. this week. The House on Thursday debated legislation that would regulate who can own tigers, lions and other big cats.
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., says he introduced the bill to protect animals and the public.
“To keep them as pets is inhumane as hell and extraordinarily dangerous,” Quigley said.
The House is planning to vote on it on Friday and with bipartisan support he’s confident it will pass.
“I can say I’m feline really good about it,” Quigley said.
The legislation would ban people from privately owning or breeding big cats – like lions, tigers and cougars. Zoos and sanctuaries can keep their cats, but they won’t be allowed to let people interact with them.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who introduced the Senate version of the bill, says that’s an important piece of the proposal.
“The big cats – leopards, tigers, cheetahs – will be in the wild. Not petted, fed, exploited and then sold to the black market,” Blumenthal said.
Current owners will be grandfathered in, so they can keep their big cats. But they will be required to register them.
Past efforts to address the issue have failed in Congress. But the Netflix series “Tiger King” brought attention to the topic and now it’s gained traction again.
“The public and bipartisan support in the Senate is mounting,” Blumenthal said.
Many animal rights groups are hopeful he’s right. Animal Welfare Institute Senior Policy Adviser Kate Dylewsky says the bill is a win for everyone it effects.
“It’s just to implement a regulatory structure that, in the long run, will make this country so much safer for both big cats and people,” Dylewsky said.
Other lawmakers say with issues like inflation and Ukraine grabbing headlines, this is not what Congress should be focusing on.
“The absence of any sense of urgency to fix the real problems facing this country is incredibly frustrating,” Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., said.
“We’re just muddying the water with a cat bill that’s gone wild,” Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., said.
Rep. Quigley argues that lawmakers are capable of doing more than one thing at a time.
“There are a lot of things we have to do, but taking care of majestic beasts and keeping our country safe is within our grasp,” Quigley said.