A photo shoot featuring animals provided by notorious exhibitor Animals of Montana ended abruptly yesterday after a tiger escaped from handlers and cowered in a stairwell. The frightened animal reportedly growled while Animals of Montana handlers allowed members of the public to taunt and scare the tiger with a weed whacker and a hedge trimmer, creating a grave risk of harm both to the tiger and the public. In response, PETA has rushed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calling for revocation of the facility’s exhibitor’s license.
Animals of Montana has a long history of violating federal law. In 2012, a 24-year-old Animals of Montana trainer was mauled to death by a grizzly bear in an incident that was recognized as preventable by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and for which Animals of Montana was fined $9,000. By using a “free contact” system—where no barriers are placed between human workers and dangerous animals—employees are subjected to life-threatening situations on a daily basis. Animals of Montana owner Troy Hyde was also convicted in 2005 for illegally trafficking tigers in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act, after which his USDA exhibitor’s license was suspended for two years.