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Victory! Virginia Makes Tiger Cub Petting Illegal, Now Let’s Pass The Big Cat Safety Act Federally

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It looks like Netflix’s new documentary series “Tiger King” may have played a part in a new Virginia law that has just passed banning tiger cub petting encounters.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed Senate Bill 1030 the Dangerous Captive Animal Exhibits Act into law on April 2nd, 2020.

The new legislation “prohibits a keeper of dangerous captive animals, defined in the bill, from providing or offering to provide to any member of the public, for free or for a cost, direct contact with such dangerous captive animal.”

The Dangerous Captive Animal Exhibits Act prohibits the handling of dangerous captive animals, including big cats like lions and tigers. It also includes bears and primates in the new law.

Starting on July 1, 2021, when it goes into effect violating the law will come with a fine of up to $500 per violation and a Class three misdemeanor charge on your record. 

While twenty-one states in the U.S. currently have legislation criminalizing exotic animal ownership there is still no Federal law making big cat ownership illegal.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act which is supported by many animal rights organizations including most prominently PETA gathered enough sponsors in the House of Representatives last December to move forward.

If it clears the next step in the bureaucratic process the Big Cat Public Safety Act would make direct contact like cub petting between big cats and the public illegal.

One thing Netfilx’s popular documentary series “Tiger King” has done to expose the reality and harsh truth about the lives of big cats in captivity throughout the United States.

The outright abuse these animals endure in roadside zoos and so-called sanctuaries are beyond inhumane. Many go as far as to masquerade as legitimate non-profits with the best interest of the animals at heart when nothing could be further from the truth.

Real animal sanctuaries always put the welfare, needs, and lives of their rescued residents first before profit. True sanctuaries also will never breed, trade, buy, or sell the animals they are the guardians of.

A true haven for rescued animals like big cats will have an environment as similar as possible to the environment they would experience in their natural habitat.

Those that are there for the animals and not to exploit them for financial gain will not have cub petting events or any other abusive nonsense like what was shown in the documentary series.

Sadly because of the poor care, unnatural diet, inbreeding and a general lack of much-needed exercise these captive wild animals have alarmingly high rates of obesity, heart disease, deformity, cancer, and other diseases.

They also run the risk of becoming infected by diseases they would never encounter in their natural habitat. A recent example is a tiger in New York’s Bronx Zoo testing positive for COVID-19 because of contact with humans.

Zoochosis is also very common with many captive wild animals including big cats. Zoochosis is marked by stereotypical behavioral changes including pacing, rocking and other repetitive movements (Also seen in CAFOs with pigs). 

The resulting behavioral changes from zoochosis increase production of the stress hormone cortisol in the animals resulting in further health decline and depression.

You can help to get the Big Cat Public Safety Act passed into law by using PETA’s letter to contact your representatives. Together we can end the despicable practice of roadside zoos and events like cub petting.

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Brandon Kirkwood

Animal Rights Activist (ARA), Vegan, Creator and editor of Vegan News, Father to an awesome cat named Boba, Youtuber

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