On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed a bill that prevents the exploitation of big cats. The law bans unlicensed people from owning, transporting or breeding the animals as well as zoos from allowing the public to touch them. 

Possession of big cats are now limited to wildlife sanctuaries, certified zoos and universities. 

The bill combats the “cub-petting” industry that allows the public to pay to take photos or play with tiger cubs or other big cats. 

The House of Representatives passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act 278-134 in July, and it also passed in the Senate. 

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Conservation groups in the United States have celebrated this new law for ending the practice of keeping big cats as pets. They claim that it leads to abusive treatment of the animals and is a public safety risk. 

According to leading animal welfare groups, there are fewer than 4000 tigers living in the wild while almost 8000 are in the United States with many kept as pets or in inadequate zoos with little to no oversight. 

The business of keeping tigers captive and displaying them was showcased in the 2020 Netflix documentary Tiger King. The television series followed Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who goes by the name Joe Exotic, as the owner of an exotic animal park in Oklahoma.

He has since been charged with animal abuse as well as convicted for planning to murder Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue, a rescue facility in Florida. 

Baskin traveled to Capitol Hill several times to advocate for the bill. She told The Hill, “This was always about developing a national policy to shut down the trade in these animals as props in commercial cub handling operations and as pets in people’s backyards and basements.”

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