Feds Warn Against Big-Cat Cub Petting During Pandemic

PETA Petition Prompts Advisory: Public Should Stay 6 Feet Away From Captive Big Cats

For Immediate Release:
May 20, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382


In response to an appeal from PETA and because of the fact that COVID-19 has been found in captive big cats, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it will issue an advisory note that, if followed, would stop exhibitors from allowing the public to have contact with big-cat cubs. The USDA recommends that exhibitors do the following:

  • Consult with their attending veterinarians in order to protect the health and welfare of big cats
  • Wear extra protective equipment and practice physical distancing when possible
  • Encourage members of the public to keep at least 6 feet away from big cats (and optimally wear a mask when in the vicinity of captive big cats), effectively ending all cub-petting events

“Federal authorities agree with PETA: There are problems with big-cat cub petting. The USDA warns that exhibitors are risking the health and even lives of big-cat cubs if they continue to pass them around as photo props,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA encourages everyone who cares about animals to stay 600 feet away from any shady roadside zoo that’s still trying to make a buck off a baby tiger’s back.”

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums and the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance both publicly showed support for PETA’s petition, which pointed out that stressful public handling puts vulnerable cubs—who’ve been prematurely separated from their mothers for use in these encounters and whose immune systems are not fully developed—at an increased risk of not only contracting COVID-19 but also not recovering if infected.

As certain states have started the reopening process, some roadside zoos that normally allow cub petting have resumed operation, including two facilities that appeared in the Netflix series Tiger King: Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina and the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (now branding itself as “Tiger King Park”) in Oklahoma.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or click here.

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