Sen. Kerry Introduces Bill to Protect Americans from Bengal Tigers

By Susan Jones | September 18, 2012 | 6:03 AM EDT

Senator John Kerry at a Senate Commerce Committee meeting on Tuesday, July, 31, 2012. (Image: C-Span)

( - Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Monday introduced the "Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act," a bill that would prohibit private possession and breeding of tigers and other "big cats."

"I know it sounds like something you just read about when there's a tragic news story, but it's all too real for first responders who respond to a 911 call and are surprised to come face to face with a Bengal tiger," said Sen. Kerry.

"This bill will ensure that these endangered creatures are kept in secure, professional facilities like wildlife sanctuaries rather than in small cages in someone's backyard or apartment building."

Kerry's action -- supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare -- comes on the one-year anniversary of the Zanesville, Ohio exotic animal massacre. The man who owned dozens of lions, tigers and other wild animals killed himself after freeing the animals from their cages. Police shot and killed nearly 50 of the animals, 38 of them big cats.

An estimated 10,000-20,000 big cats are privately owned in this country, and in the past two decades, more than 300 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats have resulted in the deaths of 21 people (including 5 children), according to Kerry's news release.

The House version of the Big Cats bill was introduced by U.S. Reps. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) last March.