A high school has been called “shameful” and accused of animal cruelty after treating students to a jungle-themed dance, complete with a caged tiger, a lemur, an African fennec fox, and two macaws as attractions.
The school gave new meaning to the term “party animals” by having live animal attractions at its “welcome to the Jungle” inspired senior prom last Friday.
Florida’s Christopher Columbus High School organisers hired fire dancers and arranged for exotic animals, including a live tiger, to be presented in small enclosures, the Miami Herald reported.
The animals were reportedly provided by facilities licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The event’s displaying of a caged tiger has given rise to allegations of animal cruelty, with one student’s sibling calling the zoolike atmosphere a “mindless” move that put the tiger in “misery.”
An animal behavior expert agreed that the tiger appeared to be distressed based on its body language.
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“The tiger is clearly looking for a way to get out of that situation, it’s not difficult to interpret that behavior,” ZooMiami spokesman Ron Magill told the Miami Herald.
“He was surrounded by people, cell phones, lights, jugglers juggling fire.
“I really don’t know what they were thinking. Exploiting animals for entertainment at parties — that time has passed. We know better; we’ve been educated.”
School officials initially defended the animals’ presence, noting that police officers were in attendance and that the creatures were provided by licensed facilities.
“The tiger, which was displayed for a few minutes in a cage, was never harmed or in danger, was not forced to perform, was always accompanied by his handlers, and for the great majority of the time was lying down in a relaxed state facing away from the audience,” a statement said.
But as Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper reports, principal David Pugh issued an apology on Sunday.
“Moving forward, we will evaluate our current policies and procedures in the planning and management of school events, including the impact these have on others,” Pugh said in a statement posted to the school’s website.
“We all have learned a great deal from this experience.”