Carole Baskin, Joe Exotic react to Big Cat Safety Act passing the U.S. Senate

TULSA, Okla. — A push to change the law about big cats has been held up by an Oklahoma senator until now. The Big Cat Public Safety Act just passed, and FOX23 Investigative Reporter Janna Clark talked to multiple proponents of the federal bill, like Carole Baskin. Janna also talked to the Tiger King Joe Exotic, who is against the bill.

Carole has tried to get the bill passed for years. She was featured in the Netflix series Tiger King. Carole is an animal rights activist and runs Big Cat Rescue in Florida. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would federally ban private ownership of big cats.

Janna asked Carole to break down the most important parts of the bill.

“To stop the breeding for the cubs,” Carole explained. “People pay to have their pictures made with a cub. Because they can only use those cabs between about eight and 12 weeks, and then they can take a finger off of a small child. So that creates a lot of breeding and discarding of the cats.”

Joe, however, is against passing the law. He called Janna a couple of weeks ago to talk about it.

“All it’s going to do is stop public contact with cubs,” Joe said. “That’s all it’s going to do. People that pet a baby tiger, like when they came to my zoo, and they learned for two hours at a show of how endangered they are, what we’re doing to them in the wild and everything else. All it’s going to do is people are never going to care about tigers in the wild because they have no connection to tigers in captivity.”

Carole also told Janna the law would mean big cat sanctuaries like hers will eventually shut down, once the cats eventually die.

“Big Cat Rescue shouldn’t have to exist to rescue animals from horrid situations,” she said. “We just shouldn’t allow magnificent animals like lions and tigers and leopards to be abused and exploited and discarded.”

In a recent conversation, Joe told Janna that he feels the big cat sanctuaries who support the law are disingenuous.

“It’s just a vicious circle of lies, and unfortunately, the tigers are the ones that are going to suffer,” he said. “They took every one of my tigers to Colorado [and] North Carolina. All off their little friends, and what are they doing? They’re charging $50 a head to come see them. No different than I did.”

He also sent Janna what he said is Carole’s 20-year plan. It includes “making it illegal to breed, buy, sell or trade Joe cats.” The document dates back to 2006.

“Carole put an ad out on her website that she would pay $2 to $5 for each comment,” Joe alleged. “I have screenshots of that, where she paid for public comments. And that’s how they got the public comments to go up and up.”

Carole did not deny working on this for a long time.

“This bill has been the number one goal of my 30 years of advocacy to end the mistreatment of big cats,” she said.

With her 30 years of advocacy, Carole told Janna she feels her perseverance paid off. The bill easily passed the House of Representatives in July.

Last month, Janna reported that Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford was the sole hold-out in the Senate. Lankford told Janna at the time that he had “unanswered questions” about the bill. However, Tuesday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the bill.

In a video Carole sent in, she said she’s thrilled at the news, but she also alluded to her adversaries, like Joe Exotic.

“The passage of the bill is the successful culmination of many years of battling against narcissistic, abusive, dangerous men who dominated the cruel trade and did everything they could to stop its passage, including wanting to intimidate, discredit and even kill me.

The Big Cat Safety Act will go to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law. Janna reached out to Lankford to ask why he decided to vote in favor of the bill. Lankford’s office sent the following statement:

“After Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut confirmed to Senator Lankford that he would help ensure solutions to Senator Lankford’s initial concerns — that the bill would lead to federal preemption over state laws and weak liability requirements for private owners of big cats, which are a dangerous risk to law enforcement and communities — would be included in the next appropriate legislative opportunity on the issue of big cats next year, Senator Lankford removed his hold on the bill, and it advanced to the President’s desk. One area where this could be addressed is in the upcoming Farm Bill expected to be considered next year.”