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Democrats Continue Prioritizing Cats Over Crises

July 29, 2022

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 263, the Big Cat Public Safety Act. House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) issued the following statement in response:

“Big cats should not take precedence over lowering energy costs, securing our southern border, correcting skyrocketing inflation, or addressing any other of the actual crises facing Americans right now. According to the Democrat majority, however, this is priority number one. I guarantee that my constituents are more concerned with how to fill up their gas tanks and pay for groceries this month than they are with cats and kittens. Not only is this horribly-timed legislation, but it’s also grossly overreaching, creating yet another regulatory framework and stripping away states’ rights. We could accomplish these exact same goals while just working within our existing authorities, not creating new and duplicative ones. Unfortunately, common sense does not appear to be on the legislative agenda this week.”


The Lacey Act under the Department of the Interior (DOI) currently limits who can engage in interstate commerce of big cats, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) licenses big cats exhibits and research, and states have primary authority over non-commercial ownership of big cats.

H.R. 263 would dramatically change these authorities. It would supersede state authority by expanding Lacey Act authorities within the states and duplicate existing federal government processes. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at the USDA already regulates the treatment of animals in research and exhibition pursuant to the Animal Welfare Act of 1966. The USDA already has inspectors and law enforcement officers in place that are experts in animal welfare issues. This bill ignores the existing framework and creates an additional regulatory system.

Creating two regulatory frameworks at two different departments – DOI and USDA – overlaid with existing state regulation will only create confusion and duplication. For that reason, Westerman offered an amendment at the Natural Resources Committee markup that would have moved the authorities proposed by H.R. 263 into the current USDA APHIS framework without superseding state authorities. Committee Democrats rejected that alternative on a party-line vote. The bill was subsequently passed on a similar party-line vote.

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