Veterinary mission in Slovakia

FOUR PAWS Veterinary Mission in Slovakia Helps Big Cats in Cruel Private Keeping

Three confiscated tiger cubs will find a species-appropriate home at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa


Bratislava/Vienna, 24 April 2024 – Sick, malnourished, locked up in tiny and inappropriate cages as pets, abused for human entertainment or killed for their fur and other parts. This is still the sad fate of many big cats who fall victim to the big cat trade and are cruelly held in private keeping. Just last week FOUR PAWS supported authorities in Slovakia after the confiscation of three illegally kept tiger cubs, two of which are white. FOUR PAWS plans to relocate the young cubs to its sanctuary “LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary” in the heart of South Africa, as soon as possible. During a recent veterinary mission in Slovakia, the FOUR PAWS team of vets and wild animal experts also examined six adult big cats kept legally by the same owner, some of whom are suffering from chronic health conditions. FOUR PAWS warns that the cruel practice of private keeping of big cats must end and calls on the EU Commission to improve the welfare of wild animals by adopting a ‘positive list’ of animal species permitted as pets.

“When we examined the parents of the tiger cubs, both were showing signs of inbreeding, having for example crossed eyes. In addition, the white male tiger was also suffering from chronic kidney disease. As this gene mutation leading to a white coat is very rare in nature, white big cats are extremely sought after in commercial trade, leading to inbreeding and life-long suffering due to health conditions. This white gene mutation is not a different species of tiger and should not be subject to breeding programmes. It was pivotal to us to check the health of the big cats and to neuter them, to prevent further offspring. We are very happy that we can ensure a better future for the tiger cubs soon in our sanctuary, where their needs and natural instincts will be catered to best,” says Patricia Tiplea, Head of Wild Animal Rescue & Advocacy at FOUR PAWS.

“We must stop the cruel practice of private keeping of wild animals in the EU and beyond. Big cats are not pets. They have complex ecological needs that are often neglected in private keeping. This can lead to malnutrition, illness, stress, stereotypical behaviour and even death. Only legitimate and scientifically-run zoological facilities and sanctuaries that fulfill the highest animal welfare standards should be allowed to keep big cats, and any such keeping should by default be viewed critically and cautiously. FOUR PAWS has been advocating for wild animals since the very beginning and we will not rest until proper protection and sustainable care is ensured for all wild animals under direct human influence." 

Josef Pfabigan, CEO and President of FOUR PAWS

Lack of enrichment and natural surfaces

Despite strong legislation preventing the keeping of big cats and their trade by private owners in Slovakia since 2022, the adult big cats of this facility are being held legally, due to a grandfather clause. As the breeding of the three cubs is illegal, they were confiscated last week and will be temporarily housed at a local zoo. To ensure proper veterinary care of the cubs and to prevent further illegal breeding, FOUR PAWS sent a team of four experts, collaborating with the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna on this mission. The vets checked two male and two female leopards, one male tiger, and one female tiger, the parents of the cubs. With the cooperation of the owner, the vets neutered the adult male leopards and tiger, so that they will not reproduce again. They found the big cats in cages with a lack of enrichment and natural surfaces. The tiger cubs were kept in a small room and will be looking forward to a much brighter future in the FOUR PAWS sanctuary.

EU Member States among top importers and exporters of tigers

Unlike in Slovakia, in a number of European countries it is still permitted to keep and breed tigers in private facilities or circuses. Moreover, several EU Member States have been among the top 30 global exporters and importers of tigers for more than four decades, according to CITES data from 1975-2018.  Contrary to the strong protection of wild tigers, the commercial trade in captive tigers and their parts is still happening across the EU. To stop this ruthless trade and cruelty, FOUR PAWS calls on all Member States to implement the 2023 EU Tiger Guidance and to introduce a ‘positive list’ of animal species that can be legally kept as pets, determining which species can be traded for life in private captivity. In the run-up to the European Elections in June 2024, FOUR PAWS is calling on voters to urge candidates to pledge for increased animal welfare in the European Union, including a better deal for wild animals.

Find out more about how you can improve animal welfare with your vote in the EU Elections and sign the FOUR PAWS petition to ban the ruthless tiger trade.

End the tiger trade

Ban the ruthless tiger trade now!

Sign our petition to help end the EU trade of tigers for commercial purposes

Sign now
Vera Mair PR International Officer

Vera Mair

PR International Officer

+43 (0) 664 409 05 16

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

FOUR PAWS on Social Media

Stay up to date on this topic and on all FOUR PAWS activities on our social media channels:

or subscribe to FOUR PAWS International newsletter.


FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

Share now!