Escaped Tiger Threatened With Weed Whacker, Prompts Call for Revocation of Animals of Montana’s Exhibitor’s License

PETA Asks Authorities to Take Action After Members of the Public Allowed to Terrorize Dangerous, Cowering Animal

For Immediate Release:
August 18, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

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.

“This tiger had already suffered the stress of being caged, dragged across the country, and used as a living prop when Animals of Montana decided to terrorize him with garden tools,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director Brittany Peet. “With animals and human bystanders still at risk, PETA is calling on authorities to put a stop to this facility’s negligence and cruelty.”

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.

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PETA’s letter to the USDA follows.

August 18, 2015

Robert Gibbens, D.V.M.
Regional Director
USDA/APHIS/AC Western Region

Re:  Request for Investigation of Animals of Montana for Endangering a Tiger and Members of the Public

Dear Dr. Gibbens,

I am writing on behalf of PETA to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigate Animals of Montana, Inc. (license number 81-C-0055) for apparently allowing members of the public to assist in a cruel attempt to retrieve an escaped adult tiger using items including a weed whacker and a hedge trimmer.

PETA was alerted to news reports indicating that during an August 17 photo shoot at the historic Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit, a tiger escaped from Animals of Montana handlers and holed up in a stairwell in the building. Handlers apparently attempted to retrieve the tiger by recruiting members of the public to frighten the animal, asking a man to cover himself with a tarp and attempt to intimidate the animal—who is seen cowering in a staircase in this video—by approaching him or her with a weed whacker and hedge trimmer. News reports do not indicate how the animal was ultimately captured. Animals of Montana’s reckless conduct in this instance endangered both the tiger and the members of the public, who could have been killed or severely injured, in apparent violation of:

  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(c)(1) (requiring that “During public exhibition, any animal must be handled so there is minimal risk of harm to the animal and to the public, with sufficient distance and/or barriers between the animal and the general viewing public so as to assure the safety of animals and the public.”)
  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(b)(1) (requiring that “Handling of all animals shall be done as expeditiously and carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort.”)
  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(d)(3) (requiring that “During public exhibition, dangerous animals such as lions, tigers, wolves, bears, or elephants must be under the direct control and supervision of a knowledgeable and experienced animal handler.”)
  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(d)(1) (requiring that “Animals shall be exhibited only for periods of time and under conditions consistent with their good health and well-being.”)
  • 9 C.F.R. § 3.132 (requiring that “A sufficient number of adequately trained employees shall be utilized to maintain the professionally acceptable level of husbandry practices ….”)

As you know, an Animals of Montana employee was mauled to death by a grizzly bear in November 2012, which the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognized as preventable. OSHA cited and proposed the maximum penalty against Animals of Montana for a “serious” violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act stemming from this fatal attack.

PETA urges the USDA to take enforcement action against Animals of Montana and seek revocation of its exhibitor’s license based on its continued endangerment of humans and animals.

Please inform me of the complaint number that the USDA assigns to this correspondence. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Very truly yours,

Brittany Peet
Deputy Director, Captive Animal Law Enforcement
PETA Foundation

cc:        Laurie Gage, D.V.M., D.A.C.V.M., Big Cat and Marine Mammal Specialist, USDA/APHIS/AC

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