America's Backyard Tigers
Although I like America, I think the country is unique in being the only place where keeping a tiger as a pet or as a captive exotic animal in a cage in the backyard, is either allowed or very lightly regulated.
For example, in the UK, you simply do not see this sort of thing at all. It would be impossible to do it. Firstly, you couldn't get your hands on a tiger to begin to do it and if by hook or crook you did get your hands on a tiger and set up a backyard enclosure of some sort, your neighbour would be down on top of you like a ton of bricks and the RSPCA would be knocking on your door within a day. Then you would be hauled in front of the magistrates court and within no time at all you would have a criminal conviction and be behind bars.
The above scenario would take place anywhere in the UK. It doesn't matter where you are because the same attitude and the same laws apply. Yet in America, as I understand it, each state has its own statewide legislation on the keeping of exotic animals and the law varies from state to state. It is a patchwork of legislation which needs to be tidied up, clarified and I suspect simplified with the introduction of an all-encompassing nationwide law.
To be brutally honest, keeping tiger as a possession in one's backyard is very self-indulgent. It is done for the person's amusement and entertainment. That is the only upside: entertaining one person or a family of people. The downsides are enormous and include the welfare of the tiger or other exotic cat, the undermining of worldwide wild cat conservation and the safety of the public and the individuals trying to care for the cats.
This seems to be a lack of education about what a large wild cat requires in the way of an environment in which to live. To put such an animal in a small cage is tantamount to torture. These animals have ranges of hundreds of square miles. Their natural inclination is to roam over 100 mi.². An enclosure is a tiny fraction of that space and they never get used to it because their natural inclinations are hardwired into their brains and their DNA.
The cost of looking after a single big cat problem amounts to about $10-$15,000 per year. That is a guess but it could be much more. Do people who wish to possess a tiger factor in the cost? I guess some of them do but it seems to me that a lot of them don't. They fancy keeping a tiger cub and hate the idea of keeping a 400 lb adult tiger because he is dangerous and he eats too much!
Where do these unwanted Tigers end up? Quite possibly on the dinner plates of Asians in Asia because they think that tiger parts make them stronger or give them a harder erection or something equally stupid.
The bottom line is it is cruel to keep a tiger in a backyard. It's as simple as that. If you weigh up the distress throughout the life of a tiger in a cage in a backyard against the pleasure that the presence of a tiger gives to its owner you will find that the former far outweighs the latter and therefore it should not be done, ever.