Even if you legally could own an apex predator, why would you want to? They are prohibitively expensive to buy, shelter, and feed. They will never be domesticated, and therefore, could always become a disfiguring or fatal danger in your home. A private owner can rarely provide a humane and healthy environment for the animal, and "exotic" pet trades contribute to dwindling numbers in the wild.

There are some surprisingly exotic animals you can legally own in Texas, provided that you have proper certifications and obtained your animal legally. However, the trafficking of these animals is almost never legal, and a Texas couple is facing potentially serious consequences for attempting to sell a jaguar cub to an undercover agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Jaguars are protected under the Big Cat Safety Act, a relatively new law enacted in December of 2022. The Act makes it unlawful for any person to:

  1. Import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce, or in a manner substantially affecting interstate or foreign commerce; or
  2. Breed or possess; 

any live prohibited wildlife species. The Act also makes it unlawful for any person to attempt to commit any of these acts with prohibited wildlife species.


There are exceptions for certain organizations and people who owned an animal prior to the existence of the law have "grandfathered" permission to keep their animals.

The couple, Rafael Gutierrez-Galvan and Deyanira Garza of Alamo, Texas, face up to five years in prison and a $20K fine if they are convicted. The couple is also accused of selling a margay cub in a parking lot, which to me shows a clear indifference to the animal's ultimate fate.

Yes, large cats are stunningly beautiful and it makes sense that we admire them, want to see them, and be close to them. Luckily, animal sanctuaries and professional zoos exist for this purpose- and the higher purpose of keeping these species alive.

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