House approves bill banning big cat ownership after Netflix's 'Tiger King'

The U.S. House passed a bill that prohibits people from owning big cats like lions and tigers after Netflix released the documentary series “Tiger King.”

The chamber voted 272-114 to pass the measure, which also makes it illegal for exhibitors to allow people to touch cubs, late Thursday. 

The bill appears in the documentary and was backed by Carole Baskin, the nemesis of the show’s star Joe Exotic, and her husband Howard. 


On the same day that the bill passed, a volunteer was injured at Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue after being attacked by a tiger. 

Baskin told The Hill in an email that the volunteer saw a door leading to the tiger was “clipped shut” which is the rescue’s signal “NOT to open a gate without the coordinator coming to assist.”

She said that the volunteer “said she just wasn’t thinking when she reached in to un clip it” and that the tiger “grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder.”

“The fact that, despite our intense safety protocols and excellent record of safety, an injury like this can occur just confirms the inherent danger in dealing with these animals and why we need the Big Cat Public Safety Act to eliminate having them untracked in backyards around the country and ending up in sanctuaries,” Baskin added. 

The news comes after the Department of Justice in November filed a complaint against Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and Tiger King LLC, alleging that the businesses had violated the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act.

Exotic had previously owned the animal park, and it was one of the main animal attractions featured in “Tiger King” where tourists could view tigers and lions and play with big cat cubs. 


Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe, the now-owners of the animal park assumed ownership of the business after Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being convicted of trying to hire a man to kill Baskin. 

The legislation heads next to the Senate. In the House vote, the passage was bipartisan, though it was supported by all Democrats who voted and just 48 Republicans. 

It was sponsored by Reps. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyThis week: Congress races to wrap work for the year GSA offers to brief Congress next week on presidential transition Democrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins MORE (D-Ill.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Divided citizenry and government — a call to action for common ground OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  MORE (R-Pa.). 

“Big cats are wild animals that simply do not belong in private homes, backyards, or shoddy roadside zoos,” Quigley said in a statement. “Too often, law enforcement and first responders are the ones who end up in danger from these animals and… we owe it to them to limit the additional dangers they face on the job.”

The legislation also received praise from the U.S. Humane Society, with the group’s president Kitty Block saying that the legislation would “put an end to this cycle of misery, abuse, and danger once and for all.”

Block said that the group estimates that there are hundreds of tigers in the U.S. that are “kept as pets and money-making props by roadside zoos, pseudo-sanctuaries and cub-petting operations.”

Updated 10:48 a.m.