Bronx, NY, May 21, 2021 — The following statement was issued by Jim Breheny, Bronx Zoo Director and Executive Vice President for Zoos and Aquarium of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS):
“We commend the U.S. government’s action to enforce the Endangered Species Act by seizing 68 lions, tigers, lion-tiger hybrids, and a jaguar at Lauren Lowe’s Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Oklahoma after U.S. Department of Agriculture officials determined the animals were kept in substandard conditions.
“This event comes on the heels of Houston, Texas, officials searching for nearly a week for a pet tiger that roamed through a residential neighborhood.
“These two incidents point to the need for the U.S. Congress to pass The Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263/S. 1210). If signed into law, this act would strengthen existing law to prohibit the breeding and possession of big cat species such as lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars, except by qualified entities.
“WCS opposes the private ownership of big cats as pets. When kept in private residences they make no contribution to the conservation of their species. Furthermore, they are often kept by individuals who lack the training and expertise to care properly for the animals’ needs, under sub-optimal conditions, including insufficient living spaces, poor nutrition and inadequate veterinary care. Keeping big cats in these conditions compromises their welfare. These very real issues aside, the most compelling reason to not keep big cats in private residences is that they are extremely dangerous animals that pose a threat to public safety.
“The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo and the Association of Zoos & Aquarium have long advocated against private ownership of big cats. WCS urged Congress to pass the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which it did in 2003. This law addressed concerns about public safety and the growing number of big cats in private hands in the United States. And for more than 20 years, Bronx Zoo staff members have testified in courts against private ownership of big cats.”