Tallahassee, FL – Exotic pets are popular in the state. Many of them are illegal. On the list of exotics are big cats- many of which are not native to Florida or the U.S. These cats are the end result of generations of breeding from the original animals that were brought to the states years ago. Henry Cabbage is the community relations coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Big Cats such as lions and tigers are heavily regulated in Florida. People are not allowed to have them as pets. In order to care for them, they must be permitted by the FWC and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The facilities that are permitted for Big Cats are inspected frequently. For facilities that consistently fail inspections, the FWC may remove the cats, but because there are only a few permitted facilities, closing down one is usually a last resort.
For now Big Cats have a home in Florida, and a decreased risk of exploitation due to Florida's strict laws. But that is not true for every state, and in some, private ownership is still a legal practice, leaving many cats and people open to conflict. For WFSU-FM, I'm Lynn Hatter.