Joe Biden signs ‘Tiger King’ bill over private ownership of big cats

Joe Biden signs 'Tiger King' bill over private ownership of big cats

President Biden signed legislation Tuesday to ban the private ownership of lions, tigers and other big cats after a successful years-long campaign by Carole Baskin, the main antagonist of the Netflix series “Tiger King.”

Biden signed the Big Cat Public Safety Act without a public ceremony, dashing speculation that he might host the ban’s top celebrity advocate.

The bill passed the Senate without a single “no” vote on Dec. 7 after clearing the House by 278-134 in July.

The legislation forbids private big cat owners from acquiring new animals while forcing them to register their existing stocks.

It also bans direct public contact with six species — lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, jaguars and cougars. The bill exempts licensed zoos and sanctuaries such as Baskin’s own Big Cat Rescue facility in Tampa, Fla.

Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic are the main subjects of "Tiger King" on Netflix.
Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic were the main characters of “Tiger King” on Netflix.
Mirrorpix / MEGA; (Santa Rosa County Jail via AP, File)

Baskin, 61, became famous in 2020 with the success of the Netflix series that documented her rivalry with self-declared “Tiger King” Joe Exotic, a perennial Oklahoma political candidate, country musician and private zoo owner who called himself a “gay, gun-carrying redneck with a mullet.”

Baskin campaigned against Exotic’s businesses, creating public pressure to halt his tiger cub-petting gigs — while he retaliated by accusing Baskin of feeding her first husband Don Lewis, who disappeared in 1997, to her own lions and tigers.

Exotic even produced a song and music video called “Here Kitty Kitty” that featured a Baskin lookalike feeding suspicious-looking meet to her animals.

The rivalry culminated in Exotic, now 59, allegedly putting out a hit on Baskin. He is serving a 21-year federal prison sentence for crimes including the murder-for-hire plot and animal abuse at his Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park.

Baskin took a victory lap this month when the legislation passed, saying in a celebratory video: “Apparently I am harder to intimidate and kill than some thought!”

“The passage of the bill is the successful culmination of many years of battling against narcissistic, abusive, dangerous men who dominated the cruel trade and did everything they could to stop its passage, including wanting to intimidate, discredit and even kill me,” she added.

Carole Baskin
The Baskin-backed bill sailed through the Senate without a single “no” vote.

“Within a decade, most of the thousands of big cats living this way will have passed away, and in 20 years, no big cats will be living in this kind of misery.”

According to Baskin’s nonprofit, just five states — Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Oregon and Washington — had banned private possession of big cats as of last year. Most allowed licenses for private ownership or for commercial exhibitors and four — Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin — had no restrictions.

PETA official Brittany Peet cheered Biden’s signature Tuesday, saying, “‘Tiger Kings’ can no longer cash in on the suffering of big-cat cubs removed from their caged mothers.”

One of the 45 tigers relocated from Joe Exotic's Greater Wynnewood Animal Park in Oklahoma is pictured in its new pen at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Kennesburg, Colo.
One of the 45 tigers taken from Joe Exotic’s former Oklahoma zoo is pictured in its new pen at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Kennesburg, Colo.
Denver Post via Getty Images
Carole Baskin campaigned to ban private ownership of big cats, citing abusive practices and danger to public safety.
Carole Baskin campaigned to ban private ownership of big cats, citing abusive practices and dangers to public safety.
©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Colle

“This law caps off years of PETA legal actions that resulted in the rescue of 75 big cats, took down ‘Tiger King’ villains Tim Stark and Jeff Lowe, and established that big-cat cub petting violates the Endangered Species Act,” Peet said. “PETA has now set its sights on ending photo ops with baby bears, otters, sloths, and other exploited animals who deserve to be with their families, and it urges everyone never to give a dime to animal exploiters.”

Exotic was convicted of paying $3,000 in 2017 to Allen Glover, the right-hand-man of his business rival-turned-partner-turned-rival Jeff Lowe, to murder Baskin after years of violent rants against her.

Exotic said he was framed and Glover recanted his testimony last year.

Jeff Lowe, above, took over the Oklahoma zoo from 'Tiger King''s Joe Exotic.
Jeff Lowe took over the Oklahoma zoo from ‘Tiger King”s Joe Exotic. Baskin later gained ownership of the facility.

“Jeff Lowe created the entire murder-for-hire plot from start to finish,” Glover said in a sworn affidavit.

But prosecutors said this year that Exotic’s conviction should stand because of secret recordings in which he appeared to confirm details of Glover’s initial allegation.

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