There is no denying that tiger cubs are adorable. Getting the chance to cuddle, bottle feed, and maybe even swim with one would be amazing, right? Well, not so fast. Sounds great on the surface, but stunts such as these are dangerous for not only the animals but for people. And that’s exactly why the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reportedly ordered Dade City’s Wild Things to end its tiger cub swimming encounters and pay a $21,000 fine for exposing the animals to “rough or excessive public handling.”
The decision follows an undercover investigation into Dade City Wild Things by PETA, which shows handlers smacking the cubs, yanking them out of cages, stepping over a dead cub as if it were nothing at all, forcing them to swim, and engaging them in dangerous interactions with visitors. That is not okay.
This panicked tiger cub is repeatedly forced to swim.
The order to end the tiger cub swimming encounters was issued on February 15th and is effective starting March 22nd. This new legislation states that the swimming with tiger program “broke the law when it allowed tigers to be harmed during handling and exposed people to dangerous conditions four times between September 2011 and October 2012.” Kathy and Randy Stearns, owners of Dade City Wild Things have until March 17, 2017, to appeal. The order also requires they suspend exhibiting animals to the public for 60 days.
The Big Cats and Public Safety Act is currently pending in Congress and would ban the private possession of exotic cats as pets and use in public encounters, so hopefully, this move will further propel this bill to pass.
Zoos argue that their main focus is to care for and conserve endangered animal species, but stunts such as swimming with tigers go to show that, when profit can be made, animal welfare is often given lower priority. Sadly, the way in which the cubs are being exploited by this zoo is not an isolated incident. The USDA previously filed a complaint against Wild Things for “[continuing] to mishandle animals, particularly infant and juvenile tigers, exposing these animals and the public to injury, disease, and harm.”
Not to mention, it has been noted that young tiger cubs used in their attractions were far too young to be separated from their mothers and will likely experience stress and fear from being handled by unfamiliar people on a regular basis.
So while it’s great that the tiger cub swimming encounters have been phased out of Dade City Wild Things, this is still not an establishment animal lovers should support.
There are currently more tigers in the U.S., used as entertainment props, than there are left in the wild. This is a major problem and speaks to the lengths that our greed will go. Pitiful establishments like Dade City Wild Things run on profit, so when the money stops coming in, the need to exploit these animals ends. No living creature should suffer for the sake of our entertainment.
Image Source: PETA