Can you believe it’s legal…? Pet Tigers.

tigerMany people are entranced with the idea of having such a beautiful and powerful animal as a tiger as a pet. It is a shocking fact that there are actually more “pet” tigers in the USA – around 5,000 of them – than exist in the wild. These felines are incredibly graceful, sleek, and gorgeous – and we all get mesmerized by their exotic beauty at places like zoos and big cat rescue and rehabilitation centers. Some people get so smitten that they decide to purchase a tiger of their own, and are stuck with a recklessly wild animal for years and even decades – that is, if they can even afford care for it. Here, we examine the legal aspects of owning a tiger.

First of all, different states have different laws. Owning a pet tiger is considered legal or is unregulated in eight states, all of which have rather lax regulatory laws concerning animal rights in general: North Carolina, Alabama, Delaware, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Fourteen other states require a permit to own a tiger or any other big cat. Meaning that roughly half of the states accept pet tigers on a legal basis.

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Tigers are surprisingly cheap to purchase as a pet. People in the USA can purchase a captive-born tiger for anywhere from $900-$2500. Typically people will purchase a female tiger, as the males tend to be more aggressive, more territorial, and more unpredictable in their behavior. This does lead to some questionable behavior regarding the treatment of male tigers that are born to a breeder. Despite this relatively cheap initial purchasing price of a tiger cub, the costs of keeping and caring for a wild tiger are extremely high. A full-grown tiger requires around 6,000 kilocalories of food a day – that is about 15 pounds of meat! However, in the wild, tigers consume a wide variety of animals and plants, and therefore require a diverse diet to ensure they are receiving an adequately nutritious diet. This means that in addition to purchasing enough meat to support a tiger, various nutrients and nutritious additives must be purchased to add to food so that the tiger does not suffer from malnutrition and deficiencies.

In addition, one of the largest issues in keeping a tiger is the issue of space. A male tiger in the wild keeps a territory of around 40 square miles, while a female maintains around 7 square miles of territory. Regardless, few people own this amount of land, much less are even able to enclose a large enough space for their tiger to reside in.

The end result is that often tigers live in decrepit squalor, in tiny pens piled high with their own waste. Tigers living in tiny pens will quite literally lose their minds, becoming hyperaggressive and attacking anything that comes near their enclosure. In the past 10 years, around 21 fatalities have been attributed to big cats. Despite being accustomed to human interaction, the fact remains that tigers associate humans with food, and this association can and has turned fatal. Many animal rights organizations work tirelessly to attempt to overturn the legal status of owning tigers. After a certain incident in Ohio in 2011 when a man released his tigers into the community, along with many other wild animals before committing suicide, Ohio has established a ban on owning big cats.

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10 thoughts on “Can you believe it’s legal…? Pet Tigers.”

  1. Lily says:

    Can you own a tiger in Utah? And do you have to have a permit?

  2. DARIA says:

    i want a pet tiger

  3. Charles says:

    I guess I am amoung the few I am not against owning big cats, I do believe people should educate themselves on any animal they intend to own. Besides this is a way to help preserve the species

  4. Mike says:

    Owning a wild animal is wrong but when you are saving the species from extinction its totally different. Many of our rainforest and jungles are being destroyed for profits.

  5. Bob says:

    In Alabama you can own a tiger completely unregulated. But you’re not allowed to pick up a baby squirrel and raise it. Fish and Game will send in a SWAT team to confiscate a squirrel.

    1. DARIA says:

      too bad

  6. ibagoalie says:

    I was actually surprised when I stumbled across your site. I was unaware that you could legally buy a tiger in the states. I thinking owning ‘wild’ animals is just wrong and would support any legislation to ban it. That said, I wonder how may people would buy an exotic pet, if they could only purchase it when it reached adulthood. I bet the number would go down, since the ‘cute’ factor is diminished.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Banning to own a tiger is like banning to own a dog. It’s not necessarily wrong if you take car of it. Yes it’s very dangerous but it’s not wrong and is the same as owning any other pet.

  7. I recently bought a Devon Rex from a pet store (last week), in retrospect I regret supporting the petstore, because although they told us they had 2 local breeders that they purchased their kittens from, i have reason to believe that our cat was not obtained from a reputable and safe cattery. He has had horrrible diahhrea since we got him. We already have him on deworming pills, but are taking stool samples into the vet on wednesday to check for parasites, which i believe to be the culprit.

    What im hoping you can tell me, is whether or not it is legal for the petstore to send sick animals out to peoples homes, i am disturbed that they sent us home with a cat that was clearly ill, and i am thankful that we do not have any other cats that could have potentially gotten sick from him. I am worried about my dog potentially being exposed to some sort of contageous parasite or worm. Is this legal? shouldnt the petstore have pets checked and treated before they send them out? like it seems like a health hazard to me….

    1. Chris says:

      There isn’t actually much regulation on what a pet store can or can’t do with their animals. I’m going to post an article in the near future on the topic of puppy mills and the regulations regarding that sort of business, it should be up this month, I’ll try to remember to let you know so you can check it out.

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