7 min read

Myrtle Beach Marathon Celebrates Abusive, Exploitative Tiger Breeder

<p>Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimborocks/6238905923/sizes/l/" target="_blank">JimboRocks</a></p>

The Myrtle Beach Marathon in South Carolina has, for the second year in a row, partnered with an organization called The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) to offer petting of tiger cubs and other exotic wild animals at the marathon. Big Cat Rescue, perhaps the most prominent wild cat rescue organization in the country, created a petition to block the partnership -- and a closer look into TIGERS shows that their concern is warranted. 911AnimalAbuse calls this company "one of the most notorious exploiters of tiger cubs in the country."

The Myrtle Beach Marathon's calls its partnership an attempt to "create a weekend filled with wild animal encounters and opportunities to connect with rare species that you've only seen on television." Pictures on its website show runners with orangutans, tiger cubs, and gibbons draped around their necks, all courtesy of TIGERS.

TIGERS is run by Dr. Bhagavan Antle (he claims to hold a "Doctoral degree in medicine" from an unnamed school in China). Antle's organization particularly prides itself on its tiger breeding program, which provides cubs for visitors to pet as well as breeding specific color morphs and crossbreeds, from white tigers to ligers (lion-tiger hybrids). He also provides animals to be used in Hollywood productions like "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls," as well as commercials.

He's also been cited dozens of times by the USDA for violations. Those include allowing people to interact with adult tigers; failure to provide adequate veterinary care, cage space, enrichment, and clean water; failure to maintain his facilities to code (a tiger escaped in 2010); failure to allow federal inspectors into his facilities; and charges were filed after a model was severely bitten by a tiger, requiring 50 stitches, in 1993. His supposed conservation wing, Rare Species Fund, is not a registered non-profit on any registry we could find. "Visitors who have tried asking where the tigers end up tell us that they get evasive answers," says 911AnimalAbuse. (Nobody from TIGERS has replied to requests for comment at the time of writing.)

It's outrageous that the Myrtle Beach Marathon would repeatedly partner with a company that so flagrantly violates both the rights of the animals and the laws set up to protect them. Big Cat Rescue has set up an Action Center so you can write to your representative in protest -- you can find it here.

ACTION ALERT: Zoos and Aquariums
Hundreds of millions of people visit zoos every year, despite increasing public anxiety about animals in captivity. If you want to make sure you're at least visiting a zoo that makes efforts to be humane, make sure it is on the list of U.S. facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; internationally accredited facilities are listed here by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. If you want to see whether a facility has any recent USDA violations, you can search this database. You can report a zoo or aquarium to the USDA here. And if you want to become active against having animals in captivity, Peta and Born Free USA offer places to start.

ACTION ALERT: Zoos and Aquariums Hundreds of millions of people visit zoos every year, despite increasing public anxiety about animals in captivity. If you want to make sure you're at least visiting a zoo that makes efforts to be humane, make sure it is on the list of U.S. facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; internationally accredited facilities are listed here by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. If you want to see whether a facility has any recent USDA violations, you can search this database. You can report a zoo or aquarium to the USDA here. And if you want to become active against having animals in captivity, Peta and Born Free USA offer places to start.