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A bill banning the majority of big cat ownership has been passed by the US House of Representatives
The bill, which was featured in popular Netflix docu-series Tiger King, is known as the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and was passed today by a 272-114 vote.
According to CBS, it is an expansion of the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981, aiming to 'further the conversation of certain wildlife species'.
Specifically, CBS reports, the bill limits who is able to transport, sell, buy, breed or possess big cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars or hybrids of those animals.
The bill still has to go to the Senate, which has just two weeks left in session.
If it passes there, most people will not be allowed to privately own big cats, while direct contact with such animals will be restricted - including the petting of cubs.
Anyone who owns big cats born before the act was enacted will be allowed to keep their pets, but must register the animal, while direct contact between it and the public is prohibited.
There would be some exemptions, however - including wildlife sanctuaries, colleges, universities, state-licensed veterinarians and facilities with a specific license from the Department of Agriculture - meaning they should still be permitted to own such animals.
If the bill is passed by the Senate, anyone in violation of the law could face a maximum fine of $20,000 (£14,800), and may also face imprisonment for a maximum of five years.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, there are around 10,000 big cats in the United States - and more tigers in captivity than there are out in the wild.
Representative Mike Quigley, who sponsored the bill, argued while speaking on the House floor that '500-pound carnivores pose a very real threat'.
The House just passed the #BigCatPublicSafetyAct! Thank you to everyone who spoke up over recent months in support of my bill. I hope @senatemajldr will quickly bring it to the floor so we can get it signed into law before the year ends. https://t.co/svhF7xP11M
- Mike Quigley (@RepMikeQuigley) December 4, 2020
He said: "Lions and tigers do not belong in urban apartments or in cages in suburban backyards.
"Private citizens simply do not have the resources to care for dangerous animals that are meant to roam over hundreds of square miles."
Carole Baskin - who also featured in the Tiger King series - said: "We are thrilled that the Big Cat Public Safety Act passed the House with bipartisan support to protect the big cats from abuse, the public and first responders from injuries and death, and the tiger in the wild from extinction.
"None of these important goals are partisan in any way and we hope the Senate will follow suit quickly to make it into law."
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