Roadside Zoo Sued Over Cruel ‘Swim With Tigers’ Events

The USDA Files Lawsuit After PETA Calls for Action Against Facility That Subjects Big Cats to Stress for Cheap Show

For Immediate Release:
August 19, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

Dade City, Fla. – Dade City’s Wild Things’ long history of subjecting young tigers to swimming events and other forced public encounters caught up with the facility this week: A new lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calls out the roadside zoo for allegedly exposing young animals to systemic stress and abuse. Wild Things routinely forces young tigers to “swim” and “play” with members of the public without protective barriers. As documented in a previous official warning from the USDA for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, the animals’ cries of distress and attempts to get out of the pool were repeatedly ignored. The USDA is currently conducting another open investigation of the facility.

“For years, Dade City’s Wild Things has forced young tigers to swim while the cubs have struggled, cried, and fought to escape from the water and unwanted human contact,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director Brittany Peet. “PETA wants authorities to revoke this facility’s license and stop it from making money by subjecting animals to a miserable life.”

PETA, whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment,” has submitted numerous complaints to both the USDA and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission concerning Wild Things’ cruel and dangerous swimming events and other public stunts. The USDA’s complaint alleges that young tigers were forced to endure rough handling during photo ops—including claims that Wild Things’ president, Randall Stearns, worked a young tiger named Tony by pulling his tail and holding him up by his neck and that another young tiger was lowered into a pool by his tail and then pulled out by his front leg—while others had their fur painted by visitors. The complaint also alleges that some tigers were denied proper shelter from the elements and that a loose electrical wire was allowed to remain in an enclosure that held lions.

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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