Tiger Enclosure Policies & Procedures

Written by catherine rayburn-trobaug
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Owning a tiger is a thrilling and awe-inspiring idea, but it comes with responsibility and legal considerations. These large cats are not only a protected species, but they can weigh between 181 and 272 Kilogram and can be lethal when provoked or frightened. Because of these concerns, enclosures must be of a specific calibre to be safe for both the tiger and the public.


Tigers are classified as big cats by the United States government and come under several regulations. In addition to the federal laws that require proof that a tiger is kept for breeding or education, the enclosure must meet certain criteria. The fence surrounding the area that the tiger is kept in must be a minimum of 8 feet high and have a double door system as well. Perimeter fences around the main enclosure must be at least 6 feet high and placed no closer than 3 feet. Depending on the type of license you have, there may be additional regulations. In addition to federal laws, individual states will often have additional criteria that must be met to legally keep a tiger.

Anumal Welfare Act

The Animal Welfare Act was created to aid in the humane treatment of animals used for research, breeding and education. Large cats, including tigers, are covered under this act to protect their needs. The act specifies that the enclosures be appropriate for necessary exercise and health of the tiger, and site inspections by the USDA are mandatory.

Entering and Exiting

In order to keep both the public and tigers safe, strict procedures must be developed and upheld when entering and exiting the enclosures. When using double doors, close one before opening the other. This door system will help protect the handler and the tiger. Many tiger owners say that getting to know the cat is essential, too, and if they have a "feeling" the cat isn't acting normally, they don't enter the enclosure without special precautions. The enclosure should be inspected daily for weak areas, broken fencing and possible regulation infractions.

Types of License

The USDA regulates the care of big cats and other exotic animals and issues licenses depending on the use of the animal. There are three types: Class, A, B and C. A Class A license is primarily for sale of offspring; Class B covers sale of non-offspring and limited exhibition; and Class C is for the exhibition of animals. A Class B and Class C license's regulations for enclosures are geared for not only the protection of the animal, but also for the public as well. A Class C license also requires that the handlers have specific knowledge of protecting the public from the animal, and the integrity of the enclosure is a part of this criteria.


The USDA inspects tiger enclosures as well as issues licenses. Because of tigers' size and potential for danger and because they are protected, procedures are rigid. Tiger owners who are non-compliant with the regulations, including those overseeing enclosures, may be fined up to $20,000 and have their licenses revoked.

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