TAMPA, Fla. — Carole, Baskin and workers at Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue welcomed U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D) Illinois to the refuge Friday.
The congressman recently sponsored a bill that outlaws most private ownership of big cats, which was signed by President Biden in December.
Congressman Quigley might be from Illinois, but he said he felt right at home among his feline friends.
“I had a tiger look at me and they said it makes one of those friendly welcoming noises,” Quigley said. “So, I've been doing this 14 and a half years. It was a nice welcome and thank you I ever got as a lawmaker.”
The Big Cat Public Safety Act essentially bans cub petting and private ownership of big cats going forward.
“The bill never passes without the Baskins. You know, they emphasize this,” Quigley said. “We were working on it. But their efforts and advocacy carried it over the top. So, I wanted to go there, thank them, and meet some of these majestic animals personally to see what all the fight was about.”
Quigley says he's actually never seen Tiger King, or its sequel, the docuseries that made Big Cat Rescue a household word during the pandemic.
“But the series had a dramatic effect on helping us pass the law. It raised awareness,” Quigley said. “A lot of members of the House and Senate would never thought about this. Watch this, or the responses, and said you're going to get on this and you're gonna get involved.”
Big Cat Rescue is also practicing what it preaches.
In March, they announced most of their remaining big cats would be transferred to a refuge in Arkansas.
The property, they say, will then be sold, with part of the proceeds used to promote other causes dedicated to the humane treatment of animals.
The deadline for those who still have big cats to register them with the federal government is coming up June 18th.
“And hopefully we won't need the refugees that we have for big cats all across the country,” said Quigley. “It was one of the things I was happiest to do.”