MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – The U.S. Senate passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act Tuesday, which would prohibit the private ownership of big cats and ban direct public contact with them. This would impact Myrtle Beach Safari and other animal facilities across the country.

Bhagavan “Doc” Antle is the owner of the Myrtle Beach Safari Park, which allows people to physically interact with big cats.

Antle originally agreed to do an on-camera interview with News13 Wednesday, but later changed his mind saying no one from the safari would be available to speak on camera.

Even though Antle declined the interview, he released a statement implying the legislation would impact the safari, while also saying he has argued for nearly a decade that the bill is unnecessary.

“This bill was driven by the extreme animal rights lobby using misinformation about the threat of big cats and the availability of tigers in the U.S.,” Antle said. “It’s unfortunate once in a lifetime encounters and those special moments that occur when humans are able to interact with animals up close and unchained are going away.”

When asked if the safari still allows people to physically interact with animals, Antle responded saying they always have and will continue to do so.

Carole Baskin, the sanctuary owner for exotic cats, who became a household name from the Tiger King believes in backing the bill.

I think the most important thing that is going to come out of this bill passing is that we can now actually save the tiger in the wild,” Baskin said. “All of these people that offer cub-petting or zoos, they say that they are in it to make people care about these animals and they’re not, they are just in it to make a living.”

PETA also released a statement today to News13.

“PETA lawsuits nearly annihilated [cruel big-cat cub-petting industry] by taking down the biggest players, such as the “Tiger Kings”…. PETA will be watching closely to ensure that federal authorities enforce the new law and stop wannabe “Tiger Kings” from resurrecting this abusive industry.”

Baskin believes the bill passing will help the U.S. influence other countries to do the same.

We can finally be an authority on the world stage and lead other countries into cleaning up their mess, but we had to clean up ours first,” Baskin said.

Two South Carolina representatives have co-sponsored the bill, including Representative Nancy Mace from the lowcountry and Representative Ralph Norman from the upstate and midlands region. With the bill being passed in the Senate, Carole’s husband, Howard Baskin, believes the next step for congress is enforcement.

“Well, something that is absolutely critical after a law passes, is that there is enforcement,” Howard Baskin said. “If the agencies charged with enforcing don’t do their job, it’s meaningless. We and others are going to be trying to work with the Fishing and Wildlife Service to implement whatever regulations they have to do, and we’ll help them. We will try to identify where are these private owners because right now, nobody keeps any records of where they are.”

Howard Baskin added that having the big cats safe in the wild helps balance nature as apex predators.

President Biden is expected to sign the Big Cat Public Safety Act.