TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Rep. Mike Quigley and Rep. Kathy Castor visited Big Cat Rescue in Tampa on Friday morning to meet with Carole and Howard Baskin to celebrate the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act was passed by the U.S. Senate in Dec. 2022 and refers to big cats as “prohibited wildlife species.” It prohibits the private possession of big cats, brings an end to the harmful cub petting industry, as well as safety of our communities, protect first responders, and safeguard wild animals.

“This bill is the culmination of all of the advocacy work that we’ve been doing a big cat rescue since 1992,” said Carole Baskin. Baskin is the founder of Big Cat Rescue, which is an accredited rescue facility that has been a refuge for exotic cats that have been abandoned, abused or retired from performing acts.

Baskin said the passage of this bill is the first step of trying to save apex predators in the wild.

The visit comes as the deadline approaches for owners of big cats such as lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or hybrids of these species to register their animals with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The deadline is on June 18. For owners that do not register by the deadline, they could face prison time, fines and have their cat confiscated.

At one point, Baskin’s sanctuary was home to over 200 big cats, now it only has 39. In March, Baskin announced she plans on closing Big Cat Rescue.

“From here our cats are moving Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge,” Baskin said. “It’s accredited by the global Federation of the animal sanctuaries like we are. And we will pay for their care there, until they die of old. It allows us to then sell this property and use it that money for conservation.”

Rep. Quigley sponsored the bill and said the advocacy and the sacrifice that the Baskin put into this that’s why it became the law.

“It was really twofold; Help protect these majestic beasts and protect our communities and our first responders,” Rep. Quigley said.

Eventually, there won’t be any private ownership of big cats.

“I really think it’s the attention of Carole Baskin and big cat rescue and Tiger King that help push the new law over the finish line,” said Rep. Cathy Castor.

Rep. Castor has a long history with Big Cat Rescue.

“I was an attorney that represented them in the very early days over 20 years ago and I’ve watched this refuge grow unfortunately it’s grown because too many people have been abusing these big cats,” said Castor. “his new law is really a landmark effort to make sure we’re taking care of our cats.”