EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs has been hoping for something like the Big Cat Public Safety Act for nearly a decade.
“We’ve been working on this for right at ten years, it has not passed and it has not passed and this time it’s going to go and become law,” said Scott Smith, Vice President of Turpentine Creek.
According to him, the bill eliminates private ownership of the possession of big cats and the breeding of big cats, except by a certified zoo or animal exhibitor. It also allows those who already own big cats to keep them, but they have to register them properly and are not allowed to breed anymore.
“Oftentimes the outcome is not positive for the animal or the people and this will help those incidents around our country as well,” Smith said.
Emily McCormack has been an animal curator for Turpentine Creek for over 20 years and she reflects back on the feelings of rescuing a big cat.
“Bringing in three tiger cubs in 2016, at four months old that couldn’t even walk and having to rehab them back, it takes an emotional toll on all of us caregivers,” McCormack said.
Smith said they have been pressing for this bill to get approved because of the conditions they receive these big cats in.
“They are being improperly housed and don’t get proper vet care and they’re living in horrible conditions in people’s backyards, basements, and garages,” Smith said.
McCormack and Smith said this bill will affect not only the big cats they have now but for other generations to come.
“Knowing that no other cats are ever going to be used for that opportunity, just is amazing because it’s just going to be fewer victims as we move forward,” McCormack said.
The Big Cat Public Safety Act was passed by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate on December 6, following passage in the House on July 29. It will head to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.