Tiger King explored the world of big-cat breeding through a docuseries following Joe Exotic, a flamboyant Oklahoma man who is now in prison for plotting to kill fellow big-cat owner Carole Baskin.
The US House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday to end the trade and ownership of big cats. The highly anticipated measure was highlighted in the Netflix docuseries Tiger King.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act bans the private ownership of tigers, lions, leopards and other big cats and limits public contact with those animals.
The bill was long championed by animal rights activist Carole Baskin, whose non-profit organisation Big Cat Rescue was featured in the popular show.
The final vote was 272-114 in favour of the bill, with 45 representatives not voting.
“Remember #TigerKing?” US Representative Jared Huffman, D-California, tweeted on Wednesday.
“Through the drama and twists, it showed a real issue: the inhumane exploitation of these majestic animals.
“We’re bringing the #BigCatPublicSafetyAct to end these practices up for a vote, and I’m glad to have helped move it forward through our committee.”
Under the law, facilities that already own big cats are allowed to keep them as long as there’s no direct contact with the public. Anyone who’s found guilty of violating the act could face a fine of up $20,000 and as many as five years in prison.
The bill has bipartisan support, though its fate in the Republican-controlled Senate remains uncertain.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz suggested in a tweet that Democrats want to “prosecute Tiger King” more than they want to address a coronavirus relief bill or other pandemic-related issues.
The Netflix series explored the world of big cat breeding through Baskin’s animal sanctuary as well as a private zoo formerly run by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, a flamboyant Oklahoma man who is now in prison for plotting to kill Baskin.
The Florida woman, who appeared on Dancing with the Stars this fall, was thrilled to see a proposal she has long lobbied for finally going up for a vote.
“This is it. This is the time we’ve been waiting for,” she told her social media followers in a video last week.
The House vote came on the same day a longtime volunteer at Baskin’s sanctuary was attacked by a tiger there.
Candy Couser was feeding the animal on Thursday morning when the feisty cat “grabbed her arm and nearly tore it off at the shoulder”, a spokesman with the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue told the New York Daily News.
The Humane Society of the United States, which urged lawmakers to approve the bill, has long warned that wild animals can, and do, injure and kill people even when captive-born and hand-raised.
“This is not only an animal welfare issue but also a public safety issue,” the group said in a statement.
“Careless handling and unsafe caging are often the norm among unqualified owners, and captive big cats take every opportunity to escape. Attacks and escapes put communities and first responders at risk.”