Congress passes ‘Tiger King’ bill banning private ownership of big cats

Story summary

  • Congress unanimously voted to ban the private ownership of big cats without a single “no” vote in the senate
  • Existing big cats must be registered
  • No new cats can be acquired/purchased/owned
  • Public contact with six types of big cats is also banned
  • Licensed zoos and sanctuaries are exempt
Original story by Steven Nelson of The New York Post

WASHINGTON — Score another win for Carole Baskin. The main antagonist of Netflix’s “Tiger King” Joe Exotic prevailed again over her locked-up nemesis late Tuesday with congressional passage of legislation banning private ownership of tigers, lions and other big cats.

The Baskin-backed bill sailed through the Senate without a single “no” vote and now goes to President Biden’s desk to become law. The White House says Biden will sign the bill, which passed the House 278-134 in July.

“Apparently I am harder to intimidate and kill than some thought!” Baskin said in a video celebrating the milestone — a clear jab at Exotic, who is serving a 21-year federal prison sentence for crimes including hiring someone to kill her.

“The passage of the bill is the successful culmination of many years of battling against narcissistic, abusive, dangerous men who dominated the cruel trade and did everything they could to stop its passage, including wanting to intimidate, discredit and even kill me,” Baskin said.

The legislation phases out the ownership of big cats by forbidding private owners from acquiring new animals while forcing them to register their existing stocks.

It also bans direct public contact with six types of big cats — lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, jaguars and cougars. Baskin contends cubs often are killed by owners after growing out of their potential as income generators.

The bill exempts licensed zoos and sanctuaries such as Baskin’s own Big Cat Rescue facility in Tampa, Fla.

Baskin, 61, became nationally famous in 2020 with the massive success of the documentary series that documented her rivalry with Exotic, now 59, who described himself as a “gay, gun-carrying, redneck with a mullet.”

Baskin campaigned against Oklahoma-based Exotic’s businesses, including creating public pressure to halt his tiger cub-petting gigs. In retaliation, Exotic accused Baskin of feeding her missing first husband Don Lewis, who disappeared in 1997, to her own big cats.

Exotic even produced a song and music video called “Here Kitty Kitty” about Baskin allegedly feeding Lewis’ body parts to lions and tigers.

Exotic also accused Baskin of hypocrisy in her campaign against big cat ownership, noting that her sanctuary originated with a private collection.

Exotic operated the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, specializing in tigers and lions, and allegedly paid $3,000 in 2017 to Allen Glover — the right-hand-man of his business rival Jeff Lowe — to murder Baskin after years of violent rants against her.

Exotic, also convicted of federal animal abuse, said he was framed and Glover recanted his testimony last year, saying in a sworn affidavit that “Jeff Lowe created the entire murder-for-hire plot from start to finish.”

Prosecutors said this year, however, that Exotic’s conviction should stand because of secret recordings in which he appeared to confirm details of Glover’s initial allegation.

Baskin said that the bill headed to Biden for final approval will eliminate mistreatment of large felines.

“Within a decade, most of the thousands of big cats living this way will have passed away, and in 20 years, no big cats will be living in this kind of misery,” she said in her celebratory video.

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