Flag Thrown on Louisa County High School’s Live-Animal Mascots

PETA Warns School That Exhibiting Lion and Tiger at Football Games Is Cruel to Big Cats and Dangerous for Fans and Students

For Immediate Release:
October 16, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Louisa, Va.

After receiving complaints about a live lion and a live tiger who were displayed at football games at Louisa County High School, TeachKind, PETA’s humane education division, sent an urgent letter today calling on the school to stick to costumed human mascots. As TeachKind notes in its letter, a spectator at a recent game noticed that the lion and tiger appeared to be visibly distressed and agitated by the overwhelming noise and movement of the players, the crowd, and the fireworks. When they’re not on display, captive wild animals are typically housed in cramped cages and denied everything that’s natural and important to them.

TeachKind also points to the risk inherent in exposing students and members of the public to dangerous wild animals such as lions and tigers. There are no barriers between the cages and the players during the game or between the cages and the spectators after the game. So the animals could reach their sharp claws through the large openings at the bottom of the cages, and spectators could easily stick their fingers in between the cage bars. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—maintains a list of dangerous incidents involving big cats.

“A rowdy football game is no place for a stressed, dangerous wild animal,” says PETA Director of Youth Outreach and Campaigns Marta Holmberg. “PETA and TeachKind are calling on Louisa County High School to stick to costumed human mascots who can entertain football fans without placing anyone in danger.”

For more information, please visit PETA.org.


TeachKind’s letter to Louisa County High School follows.


October 16, 2014


Dear Principal Lee Downey:

My name is Nina, and I’m writing from TeachKind, PETA’s humane education division. We work with schools and teachers across the country to promote compassion for animals. We’ve heard from concerned area residents that Louisa County High School has displayed a live lion and, recently, a tiger at its home football games. I hope that upon reviewing the following information, you’ll rethink using live animals at school events and decide against ever doing so again.

Wild animals are just that—wild. In their natural habitats, big cats would quietly roam many miles of territory, hunt, raise their young, and live out their lives among others of their kind. But animals kept in captivity are deprived of all those things. Imagine how strange and confusing it must be for animals to be in the middle of a bustling event, surrounded by strangers who are cheering, yelling, taking photos, and attempting to interact with them. Regardless of how long they’ve been kept in captivity, animals such as tigers and lions are distressed and terrified by the overwhelming noise, crowds, and confusion they experience at such events as sports games—as well as by the jarring sounds of fireworks and cannons that are used at events such as yours. An attendee of a recent Louisa County High School home games reported to PETA that both the lion and tiger appeared visibly agitated and frightened at several points during the games.

Using an animal as a prop is not only cruel but also dangerous. An animal in distress will defend himself or herself at the drop of a hat. No amount of training or experience can stop an apex predator from acting out his or her natural behavior—and trainers can’t protect themselves or the public from a frustrated animal’s claws, teeth, or sheer strength when he or she rebels against a trainer’s dominance. According to reports, members of the public could easily stick their fingers into the animals’ cages at your home games and there was a large gap at the bottom of the cages through which the cats could fit their powerful paws. Injury and death are risks for anyone who places himself or herself in a wild animal’s path, and there have been many cases in which big cats who are used for entertainment have attacked. Just last week, a construction worker at a Florida roadside zoo reportedly had his thumb bitten off by a tiger after sticking it into the cat’s cage. This type of injury could easily happen at your football games.

It’s imperative that, as an educational institution, Louisa County High School promote empathy and respect for other living beings and ensure the safety of its students and supporters. I hope you’ll agree that live-animal displays are wholly inappropriate for your football games and make the decision to leave live animals out of your plans and stick with human mascots only. May I hear that you’ll refrain from using live animals at Louisa County High School football games? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,

Nina Kahn
TeachKind Coordinator, PETA


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