The Big Cat Public Safety Act could be a win nationally but not for SWFL preserve owners

The Big Cat Public Safety Act is back in the national spotlight, after Carole Baskin became one of the bill to put a local man out of business’s biggest supporters. Many believe that getting big cats out of private hands is a win but for Southwest Florida owners, it could take away their livelihood.

John Slaby shares his Golden Gate Estates property with more big cats than people. “I rescued seven in 2005 from a facility that was being closed down, the two white ones,” said Slaby.

Now, some of his majestic creatures can be found at the Kowiahcobee Animal Preserve. “Most of the sanctuaries you go to, the quote-on-quote rescue places, they’re giving you story after story after story, then they make you pull out your checkbook,” Slaby said.

But his non-profit is different. “The focus has always been on education,” said Slaby. “Centered on conservation, being part of the solution.”

But now that the bill possibly banning ownership of animals, such as tigers and lions, is moving to the Senate, it could hurt organizations like Slaby’s.

“There’s a lot of people that do a lot of good conservation work and we are going to be a thing of the past,” said john.

The Big Cat Safety Act is now backed by the owner of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa and “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin, The National Humane Society and The Naples Zoo. They oppose the breeding and selling of animals.

Naples Zoo President and CEO Jack Mulvena said this in a statement,

“Naples Zoo has been advocating for passage of the Big Cat Safety Act for almost two years now.  We are very excited that it passed the House with such strong bi-partisan support and thank Congressman Rooney for his leadership and support.

The Act will effectively end the unsafe and unethical use of big cats and their cubs for commercial photo ops, petting and similar activities that undermine animal care and welfare, encourage exploitation and incentivizes unscientific breeding.   The ownership, transfer, and breeding of tigers, lions and other big cats will now be prohibited except by qualified entities like AZA accredited zoos, colleges, universities and sanctuaries that are properly licensed and permitted by U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Our big cats here at Naples Zoo are truly animal ambassadors who our guests visit to learn about and gain a greater appreciation of how they are cared for, their conservation status and the challenges they face in the wild.”

If the bill becomes law, the future of these big cats is unknown and Kowiahcobee will be out of business forever.

“The problem is we need to concentrate on diversity in the wild, it’s shrinking with the population and there’s a lot of things that are happening with the cats that can end up solving a lot of problems but, it’s just not politically correct anymore,” said Slaby.

The Big Cat Safety Act also aims to protect people from exotic animals. The bill passed in the house just hours after a volunteer was attacked by a tiger at Big Cat Rescue.

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Drew Hill
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