Introduced by Congressman Howard McKeon (CA-25th), H.R. 4122 would
amend the Lacey Act to clarify provisions enacted by the Captive
Wildlife Safety Act (CWSA), to further the conservation of certain
wildlife species. The bill would prohibit private possession of big cats
except at certain facilities, such as accredited zoos. It requires any
persons who currently possess big cats to register those animals with
USDA in order to keep the cats they currently own. The bill would also
outlaw the breeding of any big cat except at accredited zoos and
research and educational institutions. Violators of the law could have
their animals confiscated along with any vehicles or equipment used to
aid in their illegal activity, and could face penalties including fines
as much as $20,000, and up to five years in jail.
- Issues related to ownership, transportation, welfare, and exhibition of
big cats are regulated under multiple federal laws including the Lacey
Act, the CWSA, the Animal Welfare Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service has released a fact sheet summarizing and identifying issues with the CWSA.
- While the bill’s stated
goal is to clarify provisions of the CWSA and Lacey Act regarding big
cats, it actually appears to weaken provisions of the Lacey Act
regarding ownership and possession of these animals.
- The bill
removes a requirement in the Lacey Act for sanctuaries to be accredited.
Removing this requirement creates a loophole that may facilitate
inappropriate private ownership of big cats.
- While the bill
would still require persons owning or possessing these animals to be
registered with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS),
the bill eliminates language within the Lacey Act that currently
requires those persons to be inspected by APHIS as well as to be
registered and inspected by other Federal agencies with oversight of
- The bill only provides exemptions for big
cats registered with APHIS that were born prior to enactment of the
amendments. It is not clear whether this would affect the ability of
exhibitions that use big cats (e.g., circuses) to register and use big
cats born after enactment of the amendments.
House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works