How You Can Help

You can help end the suffering and exploitation of big cats in captivity.

Urge Congress to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act is a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to prohibit the private ownership of big cats. It would also restrict direct contact between the public and big cats, ending cruel cub petting attractions. Few states have an outright ban on the private possession of big cats (see graphic), and some states have no state regulations at all, making a federal solution necessary. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would better protect captive big cats and help safeguard the public, who are put at risk by the unregulated ownership of these animals. To contact your legislators and encourage their support for the Big Cat Public Safety Act, please visit: https://awionline.org/legislation/big-cat-public-safety-act.

When visiting a sanctuary, make sure that it is a “true” sanctuary.

Some animal exhibitors deceive the public by calling themselves “sanctuaries” or they claim to have rescued the wild animals they display. In truth, they likely buy animals from unscrupulous breeders, and may breed, trade, or sell animals to other roadside zoos and private individuals. Big cats at these facilities may be confined in deplorable conditions, and denied proper nutrition and veterinary care, causing ongoing suffering. In contrast, a true sanctuary does not buy, sell, trade, or breed its animals, nor does it allow public contact with wild animals of any age. Membership in the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance (BCSA) and accreditation by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries¬†(GFAS) are both signs that a sanctuary is operating according to the highest animal care and safety standards. Do your research before visiting a facility that claims to be a “sanctuary,” and only support true sanctuaries, where big cat welfare is the top priority.

Never handle, pet, or take a photo with big cat cubs or other exotic animals.

Cub petting – using infant big cats for photo props, as well as play-with or swim-with opportunities – perpetuates a never-ending cycle of suffering. Cubs are taken from their mothers shortly after birth to be exploited for profit. They are often fed a nutritionally deficient diet and denied proper veterinary care to make them appear younger than they actually are. The stress of being separated from their mothers, passed from stranger to stranger for hours at a time, and subjected to abusive “training” practices leaves cubs vulnerable to diseases – including some that are transmissible to children and adults who handle the cubs. When these felines grow too large to be handled by the public at just a few months of age, they may be sold off or used to breed more cubs, and the cycle starts again. If cub petting is taking place in your area, urge local officials to enact policies to ban direct contact between big cats and the public. Be sure to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act. To learn more about cub petting, read the BCSA’s position statement.

Picture of a lion from Lions, Tigers, and Bears

Big cats and other wild animals are not “pets.”

All wild cats, even those born and raised in captivity, retain their wild instincts and are potentially very dangerous. They should never be kept as pets or handled by people outside of veterinary settings. Big cats are not domesticated, unlike house-cats and companion dogs. They can attack suddenly and without warning, with disastrous results. There have been more than 300 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats across the United States; twenty-four people have been killed, including four children, and many more have sustained traumatic injuries. Members of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance do not share the same physical space with wild cats and do not engage in or allow direct contact with these animals. All observations and care of the cats take place from outside of their enclosures or while the cat is safely anesthetized for veterinary procedures. To learn more about the myriad problems associated with private ownership of big cats, read the BCSA’s position statement.

Do not attend circuses or other big cat shows.

Big cats are often used in circuses, magic acts, fairs, and other exploitative “entertainment” events. In these traveling shows, the cats are confined in cages so small that they can barely stand up or turn around, and they are made to travel in filthy trucks or trailers, often for months at a time. Trainers use fear and coercion to force the cats to perform dangerous and unnatural behaviors. Big cats often display abnormal repetitive pacing and other stereotypic behaviors, a sign of poor welfare. In addition, these displays threaten public safety; big cats have escaped, injured members of the public, and mauled or even killed their handlers. By avoiding big cat shows, you can help to reduce the demand for these inhumane attractions. For more action opportunities, download the HSUS’s “Guide to Ending the Use of Wild Animal Acts in Your Community.” To learn more about big cats in entertainment, read the BCSA’s position statement.

Picture of a lion from Lions, Tigers, and Bears
Tiger from Black Pine Animal Sanctuary

Do not patronize attractions that allow contact between the public and wild animals – abroad or at home.

When planning your “bucket list” trip, leave out any attraction that offers direct interactions and photos with big cats or wild animals of any age. That quick selfie you take with a tiger in Thailand means a lifetime of suffering for that animal, including cruel training, chaining, and confinement in small, barren cages. (Cub petting attractions can also be found in the United States and should always be avoided.) When traveling, seek out tourism companies that do not book animal attractions. If you know someone who is posting selfies with big cats, do not share their photos. Educate others about the importance of avoiding direct contact with big cats, no matter the animal’s age or location.