Victory! Florida Kicks Out Abusive Tiger Exhibitor

Published by Alisa Mullins.

Sixteen of the tigers held by the notoriously cruel Hawthorn Corporation—and kept on the Balm, Florida, property of disgraced and unlicensed animal exhibitor Lance Ramos (aka “Lancelot Kollman”)—must be removed from the state, per a recent decision by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC). On the heels of an urgent appeal from PETA, the FWCC has refused to renew Hawthorn owner John Cuneo’s permit to exhibit or keep tigers in Florida. According to the FWCC, the tigers are being moved today.

Hawthorn—which has supplied a tiger act for numerous circuses, including the Cole Bros. and Shrine circuses—has accumulated $272,500 in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) penalties, has had its federal exhibitor’s license suspended twice, and was the subject of the USDA’s first-ever confiscation of an elephant after the agency found that Hawthorn had forced an elephant named Delhi to stand in undiluted formaldehyde and failed to treat the resultant chemical burns. Hawthorn was subsequently ordered to relinquish custody of the remaining 16 elephants in its care. Hawthorn’s many violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act include forcing tigers to live in cramped transport cages for months at a time, denying them adequate veterinary care, and forcing them to eat moldy, fly-infested food. More than 30 tigers have died in Hawthorn’s care since 2000. 

Ramos, the notorious big-cat trainer we’ve told you about many times whose infamous record of abuse—including physically abusing two young lions during training to the point that one died—led the USDA to revoke his exhibitor’s license permanently in 2009.

Because Ramos is barred from having a federal license to exhibit tigers, the FWCC refused to issue him a Florida permit to keep or exhibit tigers.

What You Can Do

The tigers are returning to Hawthorn’s Illinois breeding and training facility, so they are far from safe. Please join PETA in urging the USDA to revoke Hawthorn’s license to exhibit animals.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind