OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue, who also starred in the “Tiger King” Netflix show, is calling on Oklahomans for help.
“It’s absolutely an issue of life or death,” said Baskin.
Baskin told KFOR she’s been working on getting the Big Cat Public Safety Act, also known as the “Tiger King Bill,” passed for more than two decades.
The legislation would restrict private ownership of big cats like lions, tigers and leopards as pets and for breeding.
“I can’t even believe that we’re having to have this conversation,” said Baskin. “Since the nineties, here in the U.S. there’s been over 700 incidents that have involved both children and adults being mauled by escaped cats.”
She says the bill wouldn’t impact public, USDA-licensed operations.
“Except that they won’t be able to breed cats and use them for cub petting props and then discard them,” said Baskin.
The measure passed through the United States House of Representatives by a 278-134 vote in late July. All votes against were Republican and 63 Republicans joined with Democrats to vote in the legislation’s favor.
However, once the bill got to the Senate, three holds were placed on it, preventing it from passing by unanimous consent.
“We worked through two of those holds and the two senators let their holds go,” said Marty Irby of Animal Wellness Action.
That left Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, R-OK as the only Senator stopping the bill from becoming law.
“He is the sole person on the planet that is standing in the way of the Big Cat Public Safety Act,” said Irby.
In an Instagram video posted Thursday, Baskin called on Oklahomans to plead for the Senator to remove his hold.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Lankford confirmed the hold to KFOR on Thursday. She sent the following statement:
“Senator Lankford has unanswered questions about the Big Cat Public Safety Act’s federal preemption over state laws and the weak liability requirements for private owners of big cats. These dangerous animals are a risk to law enforcement and communities. Our office has recommended changes in the text to resolve his concerns, and he is waiting for the bill sponsors to respond.”– Spokesperson for Senator James Lankford (R-OK)
The White House issued a statement in support of the bill in July, indicating President Biden will sign it into law if it comes to his desk.