After watching popular Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mahem, and Madness, actress Diane Keaton was inspired to take action to stop the animal cruelty depicted in the series. The docu-series follows the feud between Oklahoma roadside zookeeper Joe Maldonado-Passage (known as “Joe Exotic”) and Carole Baskin—owner of Florida sanctuary Big Cat Rescue who worked to shut down Exotic’s zoo—along with other eccentric characters classified loosely as “big cat people.” While Exotic and fellow Tiger King zookeepers claim that their work aids the conservation efforts of big cats, undercover investigations have proven otherwise.

This week, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released never-before-seen footage of Exotic and his cohorts at his G.W. Zoo punching cubs in the face, dragging them by the tails, and engaging in other forms of abuse in the name of making profit from breeding and keeping the wild animals in captivity. Exploiting big cats for entertainment also poses dangers to humans, as seen by the brutal mauling of a zoo employee featured in Tiger King. “Now is the time to end animal cruelty,” Keaton said. “Exotic animals that are kept for private use are not only a public health issue but also endanger the lives of first responders.”

Keaton has long been a board member of animal-rights organization Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL) and is stepping up her efforts to bring awareness to The Big Cat Public Safety Act, HR 1380 (BCPSA), legislation that would effectively end the ownership of big cats nationwide and prohibit the use of cubs for photo opportunities. “Too many animals suffer in roadside zoos in America. Tiger King did not show the abuses suffered off-camera,” Louise Linton, another prominent SCIL board member, said. “Bears, Big Cats, and many other exotic animals languish in ill-health, starvation, and abuse in tiny cages. There are ample transport vehicles and many sanctuaries awaiting these animals’ release.” 

This week, Keaton and other SCIL board members (which include vegan actress Maggie Q) spoke with BCSA author Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) to establish a path toward effectively pushing the bill through Congress once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.

“We are so fortunate to have our board members standing up and shining a light on the problem of personal ownership of these magnificent animals,” SCIL Founder and President Judie Mancuso said. “It is important for the public to understand that exploiters like Joe Exotic put profit over the welfare of the animals. They will breed and breed to keep the baby tiger photo ops rolling, but do not care what happens to those animals once they are sold to whoever is willing to pay for them or dispose of them before they get too big. Sanctuaries like the one run by Carole Baskin do not breed and do not allow the animals to interact with humans, which the show did not highlight enough.” 

SCIL, Baskin, the HSUS, and others are urging citizens to voice their concerns about the suffering of big cats to their legislators by asking them to support The Big Cat Public Safety Act.

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

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