For Immediate Release:
March 1, 2021
David Perle 202-483-7382
Myrtle Beach, S.C. – PETA has sent a letter to Waccatee Zoo owner Kathleen Futrell seeking answers regarding the whereabouts of Lila, an ailing tiger who was the subject of a PETA campaign because of her ill health and who is now missing and presumed dead. The group is pursuing the release of her veterinary records and the surrender of the remaining big cats to an accredited sanctuary.
“After months of wasting away, losing fur, and turning in endless circles in her dismal cage, Lila has disappeared—and PETA is asking whether she died, in pain and in the cold, and if her death is being covered up,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott. “Nothing can undo Lila’s suffering, and PETA is calling on Waccatee Zoo to release the other big cats before they suffer as she did.”
Over the last year, PETA has repeatedly alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to Lila’s severe hair loss, red irritated skin, and endless pacing—a recognized sign of psychological distress. In December 2020, the group informed the USDA and Horry County Animal Control that Lila was bald, had lost a significant amount of weight, and had poor muscle tone (photos are available here). Her condition was dire, but neither agency took any meaningful action.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Futrell follows.
February 25, 2021
Kathleen Futrell, Owner
Waccatee Zoological Farm
8500 Enterprise Rd.
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588
Dear Ms. Futrell,
I’m writing on behalf of PETA and its more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide to request that you immediately announce publicly what happened to Lila the tiger, release her veterinary records, and surrender the remaining big cats at your horrendous facility to an accredited sanctuary.
Over the course of the past year, Lila lost all of her fur except for a small patch on her face. She also had a severely hunched back and an abnormal gait, consistent with painful osteoarthritis. By December of last year, Lila’s condition was dire. She was bald, she had lost a significant amount of weight, and she had poor muscle condition, consistent with muscle wasting. Based on her condition, it appeared Lila was not receiving appropriate veterinary care. It now appears that Lila is missing, and we can only presume that she has died after suffering for years in the dismal conditions at your roadside zoo. Her significant hair and weight loss in the last couple of months likely caused additional suffering, stress, and further weakened her immune system, ultimately compromising her ability to thermoregulate putting her at risk of death from hypothermia during cold weather.
Lila spent her life confined to severely inadequate conditions. She was often seen pacing in her cramped barren cell, an abnormal behavior that can indicate stress, frustration, or an underlying medical condition. She could never exhibit species-specific behaviors like running, climbing, jumping, or soaking and playing in the water. The atrocious conditions at your facility and the associated stress caused by those conditions likely contributed to Lila’s failing health.
This isn’t the first time you’ve failed to adequately provide for the animals at your facility. Chico the chimpanzee, a highly social species, lived in solitary confinement for nearly 30 years until his untimely death in 2015. You refused to allow Chico to go to an accredited sanctuary and assuming she’s died, you’ve now failed Lila too. She could have been roaming a large naturalistic enclosure at an accredited sanctuary where they have the resources and expertise to make sure she received appropriate care, diagnostics, and treatment. Two lions and a cougar at your facility could still have this chance. Don’t fail them too.
The public deserves to know what happened to Lila. And it’s time to do what’s right for the remaining animals. PETA stands ready to assist in placing the remaining big cats at Waccatee in accredited sanctuaries where they’ll receive expert veterinary care and a drastically improved quality of life.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Very truly yours,
Michelle Sinnott, Esq.
Associate Director, Captive Animal Law Enforcement