Friends of Animals joined U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and other animal advocates to celebrate a historic step toward safeguarding captive big cats nationwide. The U.S. Congress passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act and sent it to President Biden for his signature. Once signed into law, the measure will prohibit the private ownership of tigers, lions, leopards and other big cats as “pets” while also restricting contact between members of the public and these apex predators and their cubs for things like selfish selfies.

“As an organization that since 2007 has managed a sanctuary for more than 300 animals, mostly primates, who have been exploited and discarded by the exotic pet trade, research and entertainment—and the toll it has taken on them—we know the life wild animals deserve is roaming free in their natural habitats flourishing in their own way,” said Nicole Rivard, FoA’s media/government relations manager at a press conference Dec. 12 at the Connecticut Humane Society offices in Newington, Conn. “Having provided lifetime care for some big cats over the years who arrived from the exotic pet trade at our Texas sanctuary, we are fortified by this victory for them.”

“There are more tigers now at truck stops, backyards and roadside zoos than there are in the wild,” said Blumenthal, who also pointed out that the Netflix series “Tiger King” released in March 2020 greatly raised public awareness of the rampant animal welfare abuses and public safety issues involved in private ownership of big cats. The series showed the abysmal conditions big cats—including tigers, lions, and leopards, as well as their cubs—live in throughout the U.S., and the immense risks private ownership of these animals poses for the individuals who keep them, the general public, and the animals themselves.

“This victory proves, once again, that public backlash matters. We thank our members across the country for their support of this historic bill,” Rivard added. “FoA’s work will not end until this country stops putting profit over animal rights.”