Under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), licensed owners of big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates can allow the public to interact with the animals. This fact prompted Born Free USA, along with several other organizations, to file a petition with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to request that the AWA be amended.
The petition argues that activities like interactive sessions and photo opportunities threaten both animal and human safety, undermine conservation efforts, and encourage irresponsible breeding. Exotic animal attacks are common, as demonstrated in Born Free USA’s exotic animal incidents database. Additionally, animals are carriers of diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
This change in regulations would also prevent the separation of big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates from their mothers when they are young, ensuring a more healthy and compassionate approach to rearing.
The comment period for the petition ended on November 18, 2013, and we are awaiting a final decision. Read the full text of the petition here.