Feds Order Roadside Zoo to Stop ‘Swim With Tigers’ Encounters

Dade City's Wild Things Faces $21,000 Fine and 60-Day License Suspension; PETA Lawsuit Is Still Pending

For Immediate Release:
March 7, 2017

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Dade City, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken strong enforcement action against Dade City’s Wild Things (DCWT): According to the agency’s February 15 order, which PETA has just obtained, the roadside zoo has been ordered to cease and desist its “swim with tigers” encounters and pay a $21,000 civil penalty—and it faces a 60-day suspension of its exhibitor’s license. DCWT has until March 17 to appeal, or the ruling will become final and effective on March 22.

The judge found that DCWT “willfully violated” the federal Animal Welfare Act by exposing young tigers to “rough or excessive public handling” during the swimming encounters—including during two sessions that the USDA was alerted to by a PETA complaint—and noted that the roadside zoo also failed to handle tigers with minimal risk of harm to the animals and the public. The judge also noted five incidents of unsafe enclosure conditions, as well as DCWT’s failure to allow USDA inspectors to conduct inspections on two separate occasions.

“We’re pleased that the USDA clamped down on this most egregious violator of animal-welfare law, knowing that Dade City’s Wild Things has been making money by forcing distressed tiger cubs into swimming pools for customer photos,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA looks forward to proving in court its allegations that Dade City’s Wild Things is harming and harassing these endangered animals.”

Forcing tiger cubs to swim in a pool with the public even when they appear distressed is one of the practices that PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any way”—is challenging in its lawsuit against DCWT, alleging that the roadside zoo harms and harasses tigers in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The lawsuit, which is supported by evidence collected during a PETA eyewitness investigation, also alleges that DCWT violates the ESA by separating cubs from their mothers within days or even hours of their birth, roughly handling the cubs, and confining tigers to tiny, virtually barren enclosures once they grow too big for public handling.

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“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

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