Near Fatality at ‘Scales and Tails Utah’ Brings PETA Call for Shutdown

For Immediate Release:
August 19, 2021

Brooke Rossi 202-483-7382

West Valley City, Utah – An alligator attack during a child’s birthday party at Scales and Tails Utah on Saturday has led PETA to send a letter this morning to the outfit’s owner, Shane Richins, and launched an online petition calling on him to send all the animals to reputable facilities and shutter the shop, which is not in line with current thinking on wild animals and poses a risk to humans, who shouldn’t be touching them in the first place.

Harrowing video footage from the incident shows an alligator clamping down on a handler’s hand, dragging her into the pool, and locking her in a death roll as watching children scream in fear. A guest ran into the enclosure and was able to rescue the woman. After several tense moments, the guest was able to escape from the pool, too.

“Encouraging people to pay to see an apex predator used as a birthday party prop is greed courting disaster,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Debbie Metzler. “PETA is calling on this dangerous business to let these wild animals go to facilities where they could have good lives in an appropriate habitat and be respected enough to be left in peace.”

In nature, alligators swim great distances and can reach speeds of up to 20 mph. They are naturally fearful of humans and would rather flee than fight. In petting zoos, they’re confined to enclosures that are just a fraction of the size of their natural habitats and subjected to continual, unwanted human contact, which can make them aggressive—and teaches visitors nothing about the animals’ natural behavior.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind