Sorry, daters, NY bill endangers your 'tiger selfies'

The sponsor of a bill related to public safety and big cats didn't draft it with dating profile pictures in mind, but all those snaps of guys cuddling with tigers will be affected.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
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Leslie Katz
3 min read

Men who post selfies with tigers, and the women who love them, have been dealt a blow. In New York, at least.

The New York State Assembly last week passed legislation that would prevent people from getting close enough to big cats to snap photos with them. In case you missed it, so-called tiger selfies have been roaming free on popular dating sites and apps such as Tinder, Hinge, and OKCupid, where "thousands of daters have turned to big cats to help them catch the eye of potential mates," according to a Wall Street Journal piece last month.

Shhh! Don't wake the big cat. Tinder Guys with Tigers

But while the media has largely cast A9004C as aimed at banning these so-called tiger selfies, its author, New York State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, told CNET she was unfamiliar with the proliferation of the big-cat snaps on dating sites until just a few days ago.

"It's only after I passed the bill that I started hearing about [tiger selfies on dating sites], but it certainly wasn't directed at people who use social media to date," Rosenthal told CNET Tuesday.

While those pictures will be affected by the bill -- should Gov. Andrew Cuomo sign it into law -- Rosenthal intends it as a larger protective measure related to public safety and big cats, including tigers, lions, leopards, jaguars, and cougars that commonly appear at circuses, roadside zoos, and county fairs.

"The purpose of this bill is to protect animal caretakers, those interacting with wild animals, bystanders, and the animals themselves by preventing direct contact between wild animals and members of the public," the legislation reads.

One look at the Tumblr blog Tinder Guys with Tigers, a site "documenting the absurdly large number of dudes who have taken a picture with a tiger and are attempting to use said picture to woo women on the Internet," shows that some singles don't mind getting perilously close to a wild animal to capture just the right tender shot. Some Tinder users "estimate they encounter tigers in one out of every 10 profiles they view," The Wall Street Journal said.

"I actually think it makes them look kind of foolish," said Rosenthal, who since her election in 2006 has passed a list of bills related to animal rights and protection. "Maybe they want to look like they're daredevils, but as anyone who works with wild animals knows, you can train them and hope that they remember what they've learned, but they're wild animals and by nature they're unpredictable."

This latest bill, introduced in March, would fine anyone caught cuddling up to a big cat an as-yet undetermined amount.

"There is no safe or humane result when direct contact with wild animals is allowed," the bill states. "Other states, including Kansas, Mississippi, and Arizona, have strengthened existing laws to address public contact issues.

"This legislation is narrowly crafted to prohibit direct physical contact between members of the public and captive big cats. This bill would not impact exhibition of captive animals or restrict veterinary examination, treatment and care, or transportation deemed necessary."

Rosenthal concedes that it will be hard to prove whether a tiger (or jaguar or lion) selfie was taken in NY, but hopes the bill will help prevent such photos in the first place. "It's preemptive," she said. "It's trying to prevent this kind of behavior."