PETA Wants This Florida Zoo to Stop Letting Visitors Swim With Tiger Cubs

Thanks to animal activist organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a Florida zoo will likely never be allowed to own tigers again.

In October of 2016, PETA sued Dade City’s Wild Things and owners Kathryn and Randall Steares in federal court in Tampa. The organization alleged that DCWT’s practice of allowing the public to interact with tiger cubs violates the Endangered Species Act. DCWT advertises a “safari adventure” that lets visitors pet and swim with tiger cubs and other wild animals.

In reality, says PETA, DCWT takes tiger cubs from their mothers at too young an age — as early as three weeks old. When the cats reach 25 pounds, under Florida law they’re too big for photo-ops with the public. At that point, the complaint alleges that DCWT sells the cubs to roadside zoos or consigns them to cramped cages to live out their rest of their lives.

The PETA complaint lays out in heartbreaking detail the alleged mistreatment of the cubs:

Over many months, witnesses observed Dade City’s Wild Things staff repeatedly holding onto and pulling the tiger cubs by the cubs’ tails; grabbing the cubs by the skin on the back of their necks; pulling them by the front feet; pinching their ears and nose; and even slamming their bodies to the ground.

As part of its discovery requests, PETA asked the court to allow it to observe the tiger cubs in their environments at DCWT. The court ordered such an inspection to occur in July 2017 — and that’s when things went sideways.

Before PETA arrived, DCWT moved its tigers from Florida to Oklahoma. They did so despite an emergency motion prohibiting DCWT from relocating the animals. During this hot, thirsty, 1,200-mile and 18-hour road trip, one female tiger gave birth — and all three of her cubs died.

According to Magistrate Judge Amanda Sansone, immediately after receiving PETA’s request for a site inspection, the Stearns “began a calculated and deliberately deceptive process of disposing of their twenty-four tigers designed to frustrate the site inspection and eliminate evidence.”

Apparently, there was even evidence offered that Kenneth Stearns bragged in a Facebook video: “Even with all their money, and we’re broke, sometimes somebody outsmarts your a**. With no tigers, how they gonna prove tiger abuse?” according to The Tampa Bay Times.

Photo credit. Thinkstock

Photo credit. Thinkstock

In March 2018, noting DCWT’s’ “flagrant disregard” for the court’s order, Sansone ordered a default judgment that granted PETA a victory in its underlying lawsuit. Sansone ordered the Stearnses to pay PETA’s legal fees, and dismissed DCWT’s counterclaims against PETA.

However, Sansone’s ruling won’t be final until a U.S. district judge adopts it.

In the meantime, PETA moved to amend its complaint to incorporate evidence of the tigers’ transportation and subsequent death of three cubs. The court granted this motion on June 6, 2018.

“That’s not a zoo, that’s animal cruelty,” Laura Hodge, who lives across the street from Wild Things, told WFLA. “There’s no habitat. If you go to Busch Gardens, they live in a habitat. Here, there’s nothing. They live in a cage. ”

Representatives from DCWT, of course, don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. In fact, they feel victimized by PETA.

“These are people who are passionate about big cats in general and take wonderful care of these animals,” Gus Centrone, attorney for DCWT, told WFLA. “And PETA has chosen them as a target and have beat them up on multiple fronts including in federal court and state court. And it’s pretty ridiculous. It’s getting absurd.”

But it doesn’t look like PETA’s wrong — not even a little. Obviously, Magistrate Judge Sansone didn’t buy their shenanigans. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is well acquainted with this place.

A 2015 USDA complaint pursued DCWT for a variety of Animal Welfare Act violations, including:

  • “{M]ultiple failures to handle animals carefully and to provide access for inspection.”
  • Keeping a young tiger in a pool, despite the tiger’s obvious discomfort — as exhibited by the tiger’s vocalizations and repeated attempts to exit the pool.
  • Lowering a young tiger into a pool by the tail, pulling the cub’s tail in order to restrain it while it was in the pool and pulling the young tiger out of the pool by the animal’s right front leg.
  • Allowing a reporter from “Good Morning America” to handle a young tiger in a manner that caused the tiger to become visibly stressed, as exhibited by the tiger’s repeated attempts to leave the pool; and the reporter repeatedly pulling the tiger back into the pool.

While we wait for the final ruling on the PETA lawsuit, DCWT continues to advertise public swims with young tiger cubs.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Photo credit: Thinkstock

DCWT also takes pot shots at bad reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, proclaiming:

There is no ruling and we have tigers and the Oklahoma facility is being investigated not us for the transport as he did the transport – the tigers were given to the facility as many animals go from us to other facilities. . and there never was any orders preventing us from rescuing or giving tigers away.

Are you shaking your head? You’re not alone. Truly, this place just doesn’t get it.

With any luck, a federal judge will soon approve Magistrate Judge Sansone’s decision and end DCWT’s ability to make money from abusing tigers.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

119 comments

Inez w
Inez w18 days ago

Tigers... It seems like the owners of the zoo shouldn't be allowed to keep any animals at all if their attitude consists of: “Even with all their money, and we’re broke, sometimes somebody outsmarts your a**. With no tigers, how they gonna prove tiger abuse?”

Ban their sorry butts, seriously, we need to really clamp down on this kind of thing A ND this kind of attitude

Plus, anyone nearby or planning a visit, save the money and go and do something charitable instead. Go help rescue dogs, walk them. They aren't tigers but they are in need of loving.

SEND
Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons19 days ago

I never fully trust anything from PETA

SEND
Glennis W
Glennis W21 days ago

Rotten cruel mongerals Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND
Glennis W
Glennis W21 days ago

So cruel and sickening Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND
Glennis W
Glennis W21 days ago

Cruel BASTARDS Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND
Glennis W
Glennis W21 days ago

This should be banned forever Thank you for caring and sharing

SEND
Nicole H
Nicole H23 days ago

2.- Finally, something must change in the minds of the next generation. To my knowledge, there are no school programs for our young people and teens about the deplorable situation of wildlife, the dangers they have to survive the supremacy of the human race (lol) and what will be happening even before they have their own children. How many students know about the danger of the fish, due to gilnets and micro plastics ?? How many know about the disappearing of the coral reefs ? How many heard of the killing of whales just to cut of their fins to make soup and throw the bleeding, but still alive whales back into the see ? the yearly killing of baby seals ? The dangers / pain of so many sports with animals ? The puppy mills ?? And a hundred more ?? If you find 10 % of them you have a very lucky day. Most of them know nothing at all, or just have heard something about it, but they really don't understand what is going on and what the future of our wildlife will be when no drastic measures are taken NOW. We as parents can learn them to have RESPECT for all animals, but the rest is something that is to be taken care of in the schools. I really hope that ALL governments will take the necessary steps to incorporate such lessons in their programs. IT IS AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY !!

SEND
Nicole H
Nicole H23 days ago

On so many occasions, I myself and other members of Care2, have asked people to keep their money in their pockets and NOT to visit such zoos, dolphinariums, circuses etc.. Apparently people DO want to see cruelties and abuse, no matter what the consequences for the animals are. Therefore I think we have to change this politic :

For the whole U.S.A., and the E.U. there must be global laws prohibiting the use of animals for the entertainment of people. This for all kind of animals, wildlife or domestic, animals living in the water, on land and birds. There should be NO NO NO exceptions !! Animals who supposedly amuse us, DO SUFFER. All of them. already from day 1 of their training. They are ALL traumatized, and very difficult to return to the wild.
All these parks, zoos, etc.. are to be closed, and the properties to be sold. Money resulting from this sale to be used for treatment of the abused animals. All these animals to be taken away, and brought to sanctuaries where they can continue their live in the best possible circumstances, together with others of their own species.
All owners of zoos or circuses, etc.. should be sentenced with years of prison, according to the number of animals involved and the cruelty. Each individual or company NOT following up these regulations are to go to prison for the rest of their live.../2

SEND
Nicole H
Nicole H23 days ago

How sickening is that ??? Taking these cubs from their mom at the age of only a few weeks, and then in the swimming pool, to amuse and entertain some stupid, moron "humans" who are so proud of what they did !!. My God, when will these atrocities stop ? Have people no more hearts ? no more brains? Is there no ounce of compassion. Tigers should not have a swim in a pool with adult people and most certainly not abused and treated in painful ways to obey. Throw those people in jail PLEASE.. Let them suffer for a couple of years, and be examined /treated by a psychiatrist . Nobody will tell me these people are still NORMAL !! They are not ! I should NOT have looked at the video, I will see those little ones, fighting for their live, and pulled by their tail for weeks to come. I beg you : take FIRM steps, help these little cubs, as these little ones are traumatized for the rest of their lives, and throw these cruel bastards in jail for at least 10 years. Let them watch videos full of animal abuse, even far worse than this one. Let them suffer, physically and mentally !! They deserve that !!
Very rarely I see an article and I regain a little faith in humanity. However daily I see many more articles which shred my optimism into very small pieces... My God, where will this end ??

SEND
Yasmine Eykens
Yasmine Eykens23 days ago

The video made me sick....... How is it possible that a zoo like that is still opened and in the running??? #lostallmyfaithinhumanity

SEND