For Immediate Release:
January 18, 2023
David Perle 202-483-7382
Sarasota, Fla. – According to reports just obtained by PETA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently slapped local roadside zoo Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast “Sanctuary” with a “critical citation” over a physical interaction between a visitor and a jaguar inside the animal’s cage. PETA had tipped off the USDA about photos of the incident posted to Instagram that show the guest touching the jaguar without any barriers in place, which experts consider dangerous and the government deems illegal.
Today, any encounter with a big cat is illegal, now that the Big Cat Public Safety Act has been signed into law. The USDA inspector emphasized in the November report that the jaguar’s age of approximately 6 months made the animal “too big, too fast and too strong to be used in public contact.” The same day, the agency cited Big Cat Habitat over water receptacles that were “coated with a green-brown slimy material” and had mosquito larvae swimming in them and for failing to provide nonhuman primates with an adequate environmental enrichment program.
“Big Cat Habitat put a visitor at risk by allowing him to enter a jaguar’s cage,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Welfare Debbie Metzler. “Now that big cat encounters are illegal, the facility should send these suffering animals to reputable sanctuaries.”
Big Cat Habitat is run by the notorious Rosaire family, which has exploited wild animals in abusive circus shows for decades. In recent years, PETA called on the USDA to investigate the roadside zoo after obtaining footage of a chimpanzee named Chance—who appeared alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street—being yanked by a leash around his neck while he was forced to perform circus-style tricks. Many animals at the sleazy operation live in small concrete cages and exhibit signs of psychological distress.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.