High School Decides To Have Live Tiger At Jungle-Themed Prom
He wasn't the only animal there.
When students from Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, Florida, attended their jungle-themed prom on Friday, they expected a wild night.
But nothing prepared them for the moment a live tiger in a cage was carted onto the dance floor amidst the flashing lights and booming music.
Dancers entered and spun flaming torches around in front of the cage, wowing the crowd with their tricks as the captive tiger continued his repetitive, anxious circling. He eventually slumped down against the metal bars with his back to the audience.
After students posted videos of the distressed tiger on Facebook the next day, the situation went viral — and now people around the world are calling out the school for promoting animal cruelty to its students.
According to Susan Bass, PR director for Florida’s Big Cat Rescue, the tiger in the video belongs to a private company based in Homestead, Florida, called Predators Unlimited, which often rents out a variety of big cats, bears, wolves and other wild animals for parties. It’s licensed by the USDA, but is not an accredited wildlife sanctuary or refuge.
Bass said it’s clear from the tiger’s body language that he was frightened at the prom. “It was very apparent the tiger was stressed,” she told The Dodo. “Just like house cats, big cats have an instinct to run when they’re in a stressful situation. But that poor cat had nowhere to go.”
Also at the prom were two macaws, a lemur and an African fennec fox (it’s unclear whether the animals also came from Predators Unlimited). Now-deleted photos posted on the school’s committee of student activities Instagram account show teens passing around the fox to take photos, as well as what appear to be small, live birds in cages as table centerpieces.
Following the backlash on social media, the school issued a statement about the spectacle, claiming the tiger was only “displayed for a few minutes in a cage, [and] was never harmed or in danger.”
"Upon reflection, we regret the decision to have live animals at our prom," Principal David Pugh said in a statement Monday morning. "This decision in no way reflects the Marist values, teachings of the Catholic Church and/or the accomplishments of our young [students] and that of our distinguished alumni.”
Bass said the quick public backlash to the prom was a welcome sight — and she’s hoping it will educate people about the thousands of animals who live in similar conditions across the country.
“Some may think, that after being at the prom a few hours, that the animal goes back to his sanctuary to be calm and happy,” Bass said. “The reality is, when they aren’t being rented out, they’re probably still living in a tiny cage or enclosure until being carted off to venue after venue. The stress never ends for them.”
“I’m so pleased to see this went viral and people realized instantly that it shouldn’t have happened,” she added.