From the dawn of the era of the “family road trip” after the boom of the automobile industry, roadside zoos have been an eyesore on the American landscape since the 1950’s. Replete with small, unkempt enclosures filled with exotic animals, these roadside attractions boast one-of-a-kind experiences and photo opportunities with the animals at a hefty price. Most notoriously, “cute and cuddly” tiger cubs are used to lure in tourists who are looking for the perfect souvenir—a photo of them holding a baby wild animal—with a price tag upwards of $300. In order to prevent the terrified and confused tiger cubs from scratching or biting the strangers who handle them, they are often inhumanely de-clawed and sometimes even sedated during the awful “photoshoots.” Unbeknownst to the average tourist, these roadside operations often cut corners to increase profits, leaving the animals with improper diets, inadequate veterinary care, and squalid living conditions. To assure there is a constant supply of tiger cubs to attract customers, these roadside operations tear the cubs away from their mothers far too early so that the mothers will breed again. Once the tiger cubs have outgrown their “cute” phase, they are usually sold to other exotic animal enterprises, or they are sadly euthanized because they have become too expensive to continue to care for.
For all of these reasons and more, roadside zoos are atrocities that perpetuate the needless suffering of animals in the name of entertainment and profit. Recently, legislators have begun fighting for tighter restrictions on ownership of, and interaction with, big cats. Through the introduction of H.R. 263, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, Illinois Representative Mike Quigley hopes to federally ban private ownership of big cats such as tigers, lions, pumas, and leopards. The bill would also ban the public from being in direct contact with the animals, which not only poses a risk to the cubs, but also poses a safety risk to customers, staff, and emergency services personnel in the event that the animals were to escape.
Representative Quigley introduced the Big Cat Public Safety Act last year, and although it successfully passed the House, the bill died in the Senate. Thankfully, legislators are trying again. To this date, over 150 U.S. representatives have cosponsored the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and proponents are hopeful that it will pass into law this legislative session.
Take Action: Would you please help make sure these terrible roadside zoos can no longer abuse and exploit beautiful creatures? Please contact your U.S. representatives today and tell them to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 263) so that these inhumane operations can no longer continue!
Not sure how to contact your representatives? Find your representatives here.