No one has parlayed flash-in-the-pan fame into policy success quite like Carole Baskin. She was supposed to be a one-and-done star relegated to Cameo and Wikipedia rabbit holes. Instead, Baskin is likely to see her pet legislation, H.R. 263, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, made into law. We can hear Joe Exotic cursing her from prison.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—an office within the executive branch—announced its support of the bill on Tuesday. “The Administration supports H.R. 263, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would build on existing laws that protect big cats like tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, and other wild animals living in captivity in the United States,” OMB said in a statement.
Me-OW! This means the bill will likely pass the House this week. It has the kind of bipartisan support that centrists wax poetic about. There are 258 co-sponsors of the Big Cat Public Safety Act in the House, while the Senate’s bill has 45 co-sponsors. And if the Senate decides it’s actually filled with Cat Persons (or if everyone takes an antihistamine before coming onto the floor), it could become law. A previous version of this legislation passed the House in 2020, but—like countless bills that came before—it died in the Senate. Still, it’s nice to see our government agreeing on something. If legislators can’t sign off on saying women deserve rights, Big Cat Rights are a, uh,
terrible decent compromise.
The bill’s goal is to cut down on the cub petting industry, which, if you’ve been on Tinder or any dating app, you know is alive and well. Cub petting is where people pay to—you guessed it—pet big cat cubs or sedated adult big cats. Not only is it gross to see on the profile of a person who you thought was cute, but advocates say it hurts animals that were not meant to have regular contact with people like this. It’s like the “my body, my choice” slogan actually had an impact on lawmakers, just for the wrong animal kingdom.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act would limit ownership of the aforementioned wild animals to certified zoos, state universities, and wildlife sanctuaries, and limit breeding these cats to authorized zoos and exhibitors. The bill also requires permanent barriers in places where these cats live, to prevent direct contact with the public—hit on cub petting outposts, and the weird family reunion activity you had to do that one year in Myrtle Beach.
Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action and animal welfare lobbyist, told The Hill that keeping police safe has been an effective motivator. (Legislators love to protect and serve those who are tasked with protecting and serving.) “There were three incidents in Texas last year...where tigers were in someone’s backyard and suburbia, and they got out, and they are clearly a danger,” Irby told The Hill. “Most of the time, these cats, [law enforcement officers] just have to shoot them, and they end up killing them, and it’s so unnecessary.”
Current big cat owners are allowed to keep their cats as long they do “not breed, acquire or sell” any of the cat species listed in the bill, register with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and don’t allow people to have direct contact with the cats.
Baskin, who first wormed her way into our hearts when we couldn’t leave the house, now has more bipartisan support than abortion, increasing the minimum wage, or putting the former president in jail. America women keep losing our rights but at least cat ladies everywhere have scored themselves a win.