Bill would make 'big cat' selfies illegal - FOX 35 News Orlando

Bill would make 'big cat' selfies illegal

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LAKELAND (FOX 13) -

It's not something you would want to run into by chance, but many people would jump at the opportunity at having their picture taken with a lion or tiger cub.

But a bill is now being debated in Congress that would make it illegal. It would also outlaw the ownership of big cats by private owners.

Lions, tigers, and cougars, oh my, is right.

Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, is a big supporter of the proposed legislation.

She said many people are thrilled to get a cute cub, then end handing it over to a sanctuary when it becomes unmanageable and dangerous. More than 200 big cats have come into her sanctuary over the last 20 years, many from the pet trade.

Baskin also said having your photo taken with a cub contributes to a serious problem.

"It is the primary reason why there are thousands of these cats living in squalid conditions in the United States," she told FOX 13.

Since the cubs can only be used for a short time, Baskin said their owners dump them on whoever or wherever they can.

Kathy Stearns of Dade City's Wild Things agrees that big cats should not be in the hands of private owners.

But she disagrees with Baskins on another point. Her visitors can have their picture taken with a baby tiger for $25, or swim with one for $200.

Stearns said the up close and personal experience opens people's eyes. She said it gives them an appreciation for nature and helps conserve a species that it is in trouble.

"I would love for cats (tigers) to be in the wild, but the problem is that there is no wild for these cats to be in. They're becoming extinct," she said.

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