Riviera’s Plan to Host Disgraced Big-Cat Act Under Fire From PETA

Dirk Arthur Banned From Caesars After History of Cruelty to Animals, Public Endangerment

For Immediate Release:
October 13, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Las Vegas

After learning of notorious animal exhibitor Dirk Arthur’s record of animal welfare violations—including the painful declawing of two tigers and a lion, which has been prohibited for nearly a decade, and confining animals to cramped and unsafe cages—Caesars Entertainment pledged never to do business with him again. However, Arthur is still slated to perform at the Riviera Hotel & Casino starting in December. That’s why PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—sent a letter this morning calling on the Riviera to cancel Arthur’s planned “Wild Illusions” show, which will include big cats.

“By letting Dirk Arthur take the stage, the Riviera would be complicit in cruelty to animals—and it would be a huge step backward in an age when other Vegas outfits are turning big-cat acts away,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on the Riviera to keep animals and patrons safe by keeping Arthur’s name off the marquee.”

For more information, please visit PETA.org.


PETA’s letter to Riviera Hotel & Casino General Manager and President Robert Kunkle follows.



October 13, 2014


Robert Kunkle
General Manager/President
Riviera Hotel & Casino


Dear Mr. Kunkle:

I’m writing to follow up on my October 8 correspondence, as I have not yet heard from you. The mistreatment and exploitation of animals used for entertainment is something that PETA takes very seriously, and I am again urging the Riviera Hotel & Casino to cancel its plans to host “Dirk Arthur’s Wild Illusions!” show. Dirk Arthur’s history of abuse, neglect, and public endangerment is again outlined below. I hope that after learning about this notorious exhibitor’s animal welfare violations, you will agree to cancel his scheduled appearances and, as the Caesars Entertainment Corporation has done, agree never to do business with him again.

As you have already been informed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited Arthur on December 28, 2013, during an inspection at Harrah’s Laughlin for numerous abusive, neglectful, and dangerous conditions, including forcing two tigers and a lion to undergo painful declawing procedures—which involve amputating part of each toe—in violation of long-standing USDA policy. The agency also cited him for subjecting a snow leopard and a bobcat to conditions that presented “a clear hazard” to their safety, failing to use adequate barriers to protect the animals and the public, and failing to provide the cats with sufficient space to “make normal postural and social adjustments” and denying them the opportunity to exercise. The USDA subsequently issued Arthur an official warning in connection with these violations.

More and more people are recognizing that the exploitation of wild animals is not what makes a magic show successful. Just this year, Kirby VanBurch, who had an act similar to Arthur’s, retired the big cats he’d used and continued to perform without endangering patrons and neglecting animals. Veteran Las Vegas magician Rick Thomas also retired the big cats he’d used in his acts to a sanctuary. He reported that switching to a tiger-free show was easy and that “[r]emoving the tigers from my show was the best for me and certainly the best for the tigers.” And a few years ago, the Vegas strip’s iconic MGM Grand did away with its big-cat display. Hosting Arthur not only would fly in the face of this progress but also would make Riviera complicit in his cruelty to animals. I urge you not to support the mistreatment of animals and the endangerment of your patrons by refusing to host Arthur. May I please hear back from you immediately that you have canceled your plans to host Arthur? PETA’s concerned members and supporters are eagerly awaiting an update. I appreciate your careful consideration.

Very truly yours,

Delcianna Winders, Esq.
Deputy General Counsel | Captive Animal Law Enforcement
PETA Foundation

cc:  Tullio Marchionne, Executive Vice President

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