Shocking Video of Tiger Attack and Whipping Prompts PETA Complaint to Feds

Handlers Whip Tiger at Pensacola Interstate Fair While Former Ringling Bros. Circus Trainer Is Dragged Across the Lawn

For Immediate Release:
October 26, 2016

David Perle 202-483-7382

Pensacola, Fla.

Today, PETA sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking for an immediate investigation of Circus Pages International after a tiger attacked circus worker Vicenta Pages yesterday at the Pensacola Interstate Fair. New eyewitness video reveals that Pages struck and whipped the tiger approximately 10 times when he grabbed her—and as he dragged her across the lawn, another circus employee whipped him over 20 times in full view of visiting children.

PETA believes that the incident violates federal Animal Welfare Act regulations, which require that animals be handled carefully, without physical abuse, and only under conditions consistent with their well-being.

“It’s never a surprise when tigers who have been whipped, beaten, and caged for years seize an opportunity to take out their frustration on the person with the whip,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “The violence caught on tape at the Pensacola Interstate Fair is exactly why PETA urges families to stay far away from any circus that forces wild animals to perform and denies them any semblance of a natural life.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—is also sending the video to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which confirmed to PETA yesterday that it’s investigating the incident, the latest of many in which captive tigers have lashed out in frustration.

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PETA’s letter to the USDA follows.

October 26, 2016

Elizabeth Goldentyer, D.V.M.

Director, Animal Welfare Operations

USDA/APHIS/AC Eastern Region

Re:    Request for Investigation of Circus Pages International (License No. 58-C-0440) for Physical Abuse of Tigers During a Public Show

Dear Dr. Goldentyer,

I am writing on behalf of PETA to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) promptly inspect Circus Pages International (license no. 58-C-0440) for apparent handling violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Yesterday, October 25, a tiger named Gandhi attacked Vicenta Pages, who smacked and whipped the animal in the face approximately 10 times in an apparent effort to get him to stop grabbing her leg. As Gandhi dragged Vicenta across the lawn, another trainer, David Donnert, approached the tiger and viciously whipped the animal approximately 23 times. Donnert appears to leave the gate unlocked as he entered to assist Pages. The video was posted by an onlooker to YouTube. A news report regarding the video is available here and is also attached.

The handling of Gandhi appears to violate the following AWA regulations:

  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(b)(2)(i), requiring that “[p]hysical abuse shall not be used to train, work, or otherwise handle animals”
  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(c)(1), requiring that “[d]uring public exhibition, any animal must be handled so there is minimal risk of harm to the animal and to the public[.]”
  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(b)(1), requiring that “[h]andling of all animals shall be done as expeditiously and carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause trauma, … behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort”
  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(d)(1), requiring that “[a]nimals shall be exhibited only for periods of time and under conditions consistent with their good health and well-being”

Please immediately inspect Gandhi and his veterinary records to ensure that he is receiving veterinary care for any injuries that he sustained from the whipping, pursuant to the mandates of 9 C.F.R. § 2.40. Please also hold Circus Pages and all responsible parties fully accountable for any and all violations that you discover during your investigation.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Please inform me of the complaint number that you assign to this correspondence.

Very truly yours,

Rachel Mathews, Esq.

Associate Director | Captive Animal Law Enforcement

cc:        Dr. Laurie Gage, Big Cat and Marine Mammal Specialist, USDA/APHIS/AC

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