Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said the Big Cat Safety Act had the support of law enforcement organizations and dozens of zoos and sanctuaries, giving it “significant momentum.”
“Whether it’s Joe Exotic, Doc Antle or Joe Blow, we can’t permit private individuals to keep big cats captive for pleasure or profit,” she said in a statement. “These operations endanger the public and produce the worst possible fate for the animals involved.”
Under Mr. Blumenthal’s bill, it would be illegal for a private individual to transport big cats across state lines, breed them or own them. Zoos, sanctuaries and other exhibitors and organizations that are licensed by the Department of Agriculture or by a federal facility registered with the department would be exempt. Under the bill, no zoo or exhibitor could allow direct contact between members of the public and the animals.
The law already requires all zoos to be licensed federally, according to Mr. Blumenthal’s office.
Ms. Baskin’s organization, Big Cat Rescue, has long pushed for the Big Cat Safety Act, which was first introduced in 2012. The organization has been calling for a ban on cub petting for more than 20 years.
“There is almost nothing more adorable than a tiger cub, and it’s very understandable if you don’t know the back story to want to pet a tiger cub and take a picture with it,” said Howard Baskin, Ms. Baskin’s husband and the treasurer and secretary of Big Cat Rescue. “It’s a miserable life for the cub.”
The documentary was criticized by conservation groups and animal rights activists for not focusing enough on the abusive practices of roadside zoos and instead playing up salacious details, including the mystery around the disappearance of Ms. Baskin’s first husband.
More tigers live in captivity in backyards, roadside zoos and truck stops in the United States than remain in the wild, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.