Big Cat Cubs Exploited and Abused in U.S., Activists Claim

Routine and Severe Abuse of Cubs Alleged in Undercover Video

Activists allege tiger cubs exploited in petting exhibits suffer extreme abuse.

The USDA suggests tiger cubs only between eight and twelve weeks old be used for public handling. This is only a guideline, however. State laws vary.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) conducted undercover investigations at two roadside zoos that feature the handling of tiger cubs by the public. Its findings, released earlier this year, allege mistreatment including, but not limited to, rampant physical and verbal abuse, medical neglect, malnourishment, lack of adequate water, insufficient and poorly trained staff, filthy conditions, and high levels of stress.

After further investigation, the USDA cited both zoos for numerous violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Both remain in operation.

Such zoos and exhibits remove cubs from their mothers shortly after birth. The cubs pose for pictures with visitors who feed, handle and play with them. For hours at a time with little or no rest, according to activists. Customers typically pay from $25 to $1,000. When they grow too big and dangerous for public handling, big cats lose most of their earning potential and are usually sold into the private market.

“What we found was horrific. We knew it was bad, but we had no idea about how bad it actually was,” Nicole Paquette, with HSUS, said.

(**WARNING** This video contains profanity and graphic content. Not appropriate for children. **WARNING**)

Undercover video from Tiger Safari in Oklahoma and Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia.

(**WARNING** This video contains profanity and graphic content. Not appropriate for children. **WARNING**)

Mill Meadows denies any abuse of big cats.

Bill Meadows, owner of Tiger Safari, invites visitors to see for themselves that his animals are well cared for.

The investigation into Tiger Safari focused on a white tiger cub named Maximus, seen in the video. It took place from May through September of 2014. An HSUS employee posing as an intern secretly shot the footage.

HSUS investigators claim the zoo offered Maximus for public handling from the tender age of three weeks, two days. The USDA advises exhibitors to wait until a cub is at least eight weeks old out of concerns for an infant tiger’s underdeveloped immune system.

Bill Meadows, owner of Tiger Safari, accused HSUS of intentionally editing the video to misrepresent the zoo. He told a local TV station that cubs are smacked in the nose to teach them not to bite, and that he stopped dragging Maximus along the ground (in the video) when he realized what he was doing. Meadows claimed he said “When the USDA comes out here on Wednesday, I’m giving you a fair warning you don’t say a ******* thing to them. Period,” only to prevent new workers from giving out misinformation.

Karl Mogensen, owner of the Natural Bridge Zoo, also denied similar claims of animal abuse, including hitting tiger cubs at as young as six weeks. In a written letter, he called the accusations  “slanderous” and “vicious propaganda” aimed at soliciting donations.

CLICK HERE for page two.


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