PETA Decimates the Cruel Cub-Petting Industry

Nala was in trouble. The infant lion hybrid cub had been snatched away from her mother and sent to a sleazy roadside zoo formerly belonging to “Joe Exotic.” Her health quickly went downhill. Maggots ate into her ears until they bled. When she was finally rescued by PETA, she could barely walk.

Thanks to lawsuits that PETA filed establishing that animals like Nala are protected under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA), a court ordered that she and other suffering animals – including her surviving siblings – be rescued.

A Pivotal Moment in Record Time

Only a couple of years ago, tiger cubs and other baby big cats were being churned out in breeding facilities, forcibly taken away from their distraught mothers, and hauled around the US to be used as moneymaking photo props. The cubs often became exhausted and sickly, and exhibitors jammed in as many photo sessions as they could before the fast-growing cubs became too big to be handled.

For years, PETA submitted complaints to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other relevant officials reporting entrenched, egregious cruelty in the cub-petting industry, but not much changed. So we decided to go to court ourselves, and the dominoes started to fall. Today, nearly all the industry’s big players are in custody, out of business, or facing lawsuits or criminal charges – largely because of the diligent efforts of the PETA Foundation’s crack legal team.

The evidence and precedent-setting wins they secured led to the rescue of big cats from the villains of Tiger King, including more than two dozen from Tim Stark, and laid the groundwork for the US Department of Justice to seize 69 big cats from Jeff Lowe, whose cub-petting breeding facility is now history. PETA saved 39 tigers from Joe Exotic, too, before he was arrested and jailed on murder-for-hire and wildlife crimes.

Luna before her rescue

At the now-defunct Dade City Wild Things (DCWT), baby Luna – acquired from Joe Exotic when she was just a week old – howled and cried when she was forced to participate in public encounters. But because of PETA’s ESA lawsuit, Luna is now living in comfort in a lush sanctuary. If not for that win, she surely would have died.

Luna in sanctuary

Big Cat Hybrids: Unnatural and Vulnerable

Exploiters like Tim Stark and Jeff Lowe tried to argue that hybrid big cats – who can suffer from lameness, gigantism, serious physiological defects, and other congenital health problems – were not protected under the ESA. But PETA Foundation lawyers won every argument about the fate of these animals and secured their rescue from the roadside zoos of Stark and Lowe.

From Apathy to Action

PETA essentially taught federal agencies how to do their job. For example, when the US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Jeff Lowe, it embraced PETA’s legal theories and precedent.

In a fantastic development, in December 2022, the Big Cat Public Safety Act was signed into law, prohibiting private ownership of big cats and banning public contact with them. Future generations of cubs will now be spared from cub-petting, but PETA had already largely taken down the greedy industry with our court wins.

Nala in sanctuary

Take Action Now

Never visit roadside zoos or have your photo taken with captive animals. Support so this important work can continue.