More Tigers Owned As Pets In The United States Than In The Wild

Posted on July 21st 2018


Conservation agency Smithsonian estimates that there may be thousands more captive tigers in the United States alone than anywhere in the wild. Estimates of the US captive tiger population range from between 5,000 to 7,000. In contrast, the population of wild tigers is just 3,900 says WWF. Just how things got so bad is difficult to explain and arriving at an estimate of the pet tiger population in the United States is difficult because so many owners hide them.

Lack of laws

Experts say that many US states do not have laws preventing people from owning exotic animals as pets. In states where ownership is regulated, the rules are rarely enforced. Many tiger breeders operate freely throughout the country at a time when wild tiger populations are declining. The kind of individual who owns a tiger as a pet must be wealthy enough to have enough land for an enclosure. Usually they will have seen someone else with a tiger as a pet and decide they want one as well.

Turning tigers into roadside attractions

Some people turn their tigers into roadside attractions or treat them as a luxury item for showing off to their friends. Some captive tigers will end up in circuses or other groups that use them as a source of entertainment which generates profit. In general, a would-be tiger owner will get one as a cub when the tiger is far cuter and less dangerous. At that point an exotic pet owner may falsely believe they have what it takes to care for a tiger throughout the course of its life which they can’t.

Captive tigers are a tragedy

Full grown tigers are extremely needy in terms of nutrition, space and the drive to learn how hunt, all of which private owners simply cannot provide. As a result, these tigers end up looking completely diminished and unhappy in comparison to wild tigers and are wholly unprepared for a life in the world. The best-case scenario for a tiger that has been rescued from private ownership is a home in a responsible sanctuary.

Policy has to be changed

Unless policy is changed substantially, it will probably be impossible to get a precise estimate of the number of tigers owned as pets in the United States. Experts say that big cat ownership should be banned outright in the country and there is a bill that has been introduced in Congress promising to do just that. Unfortunately, the progress of the bill has been stalled nevertheless funding should be increased to enforce the law experts say. Unless the law is enforced, they are meaningless.

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