6 min read

Zoo That Forces Tigers To Swim Thinks It's OK To Hit Animals

They just released this footage in their defense โ€” and it's not good.

The everyday lives of captive tiger cubs, tethered by leashes and made to swim with tourists at a private, roadside zoo in Florida, was captured by an undercover video released in late October.

Shot at Dade City's Wild Things (DCWT) in Dade City, Florida, the video showed apparent rough handling of the cubs, as well as a tiger being tugged along the surface of a pool, barely keeping her head above water.

But Kathy Stearns, who runs DCWT with her son, said that the tiger in the pool was getting water therapy for a neurological condition, and that the whole video was taken out of context. "The entire video is misrepresented and cropped," Stearns told The Dodo earlier this week, adding that the aim of her zoo is to educate the public about tiger conservation.

DCWT is currently awaiting the results of a legal battle with the USDA over cited violations of the Animal Welfare Act. "The USDA's allegations include forcing a baby tiger to swim despite his repeated cries and attempts to escape the pool. And the video proves that," Brittany Peet, director of captive animal law enforcement at the PETA Foundation, which released the footage, told The Dodo this week.

On Wednesday, DCWT decided to set the record straight by releasing its own footage, which, it claims, is just a trailer for a longer video it plans to release.

"Last week PETA released a video showcasing Dade City's Wild Things," the narration on the new video goes. "As you can see, PETA shows these little small clips to show you exactly what they want you to see. Unfortunately, what PETA doesn't know is that we have the full video."

It starts by showing a handler entering a yard with a tiger on a leash. After 54 seconds of playing with a leashed tiger named Luna, the handler strikes the tiger on the face.

At the 1:50 minute mark, the tiger attempts to stay out of the pool, but is struck on the face again by the handler, who says, "No."

It's unclear what DCWT intended by releasing the full clip. But it doesn't seem to be working that well.

"This is not a house cat," one commenter wrote below the DCWT video on YouTube. "These humans are exploiting and abusing these beautiful cats simply for the financial benefit. A tiger does not belong on a collar and a leash. A tiger does not belong in a 10 ft x 10 ft cage with a concrete floor. This place needs to be shut down."

"It is heartbreaking to see this notorious roadside zoo continue to breed and exploit tiger and lion cubs year after year just to make money," Susan Bass, director of public relations for Big Cat Rescue, told The Dodo earlier this week.

"PETA is calling on Dade City's Wild Things to stop investing in vengeful marketing ploys and instead focus on retiring these long-suffering animals to reputable sanctuaries," Peet said.

But DCWT's video sounds confident that it is showing the truth of the zoo. "Now you tell me, does this look like abuse to you?" the narration says. "Stay tuned. Dade City's Wild Things has much more coming soon."

To sign a petition urging DCWT to stop treating tigers this way, click here.