Carolina Tiger Rescue, formerly the Carnivore Preservation Trust, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary whose mission is saving and protecting wild cats in captivity and in the wild.

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The mission of Carolina Tiger Rescue includes saving and protecting wildcats in captivity. The general public is often unaware of the issues, both practical and legal, surrounding private ownership of wildcats.

The Need

The Humane Society estimates there are 5,000 - 7,000 tigers in private ownership in the United States, part of some 15,000 wildcats estimated to be in private hands. By contrast, approximately 3,200 tigers remain in the wild. Explore the map below to discover how serious the problem is around the country.

The Law

There are 2 primary federal laws pertaining to the ownership of wildcats, the Captive Wildlife Safety Act and the Animal Welfare Act.

Captive Wildlife Safety Act

The CWSA, passed in September, 2007, makes it illegal to move certain types of live big cats across State lines or U.S. borders unless you qualify as exempt. For additional details regarding this legislation, view the CWSA Factsheet.

Animal Welfare Act

The AWA extends minimal protection to certain warm-blooded animals who are exhibited to the public, bred for commercial sale, used in research, or transported commercially. Those that exhibit animals to the public and/or breed and sell animals covered under the AWA must obtain a license, commonly referred to as a USDA license.This law pertains to exhibiting animals commercially and does not affect private ownership. Acquiring a USDA license does set minimal guidelines for animal care, for a summary of these regulations, view Appendix II of the Animal Protection Institute's Exotic Pets Report.

Beyond the federal law, exotic pet ownership is regulated by state and local law. Most states do have laws regarding the ownership of native wildlife, so it is typically far more difficult legally to have a pet squirrel than a pet tiger. North Carolina is one of a small handful of states that has no regulation whatsoever regarding the ownership of exotic wildcats. There are some local laws, typically put into place at a county or city level following an escape or attack. For more information about the laws in your state, view view Appendix V of the Animal Protection Institute's Exotic Pets Report.

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