A high school has pledged to ditch all live-animal displays after it provoked public outrage by displaying a caged tiger at its recent prom.
Christopher Columbus High School, a boys’ facility with around 1,700 students, came under fire after the animal was put on show for entertainment, as part of the event’s ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ theme.
Surrounding the animal, who was caged in the middle of the dance floor, were extremely loud drums and performers doing fire tricks. The prom also reportedly featured a lemur, two macaws and an African fennec fox.
A video of the event was shared on Facebook, garnering widespread attention and criticism.
Having the animal present is not illegal: according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: “Provided all rules and regulations are followed, exhibition of wildlife at public events is not prohibited by Florida law.”
It added that it was ‘looking into the incident to determine if any violation of Florida’s captive wildlife rules took place’.
A video of the tiger at the event
After the initial outcry, the school tried to defend its position, saying: “[The tiger] 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.”
But Ron Magill, Communications Director of Zoo Miami said the tiger was exhibiting signs of stress and agitation – including having his ears perpendicular to his head.
He added: “The problem is nobody did anything illegal. The school certainly showed poor judgment. I don’t know what they were thinking.”
After the outcry, campaigners from TeachKind – animal rights charity PETA’s humane education division – contacted the school’s principal David Pugh II.
He said: “[W]e will educate our students to respect wildlife and to protect all animals. Moving forward, we will not include live animals in any event or planned activity.”
PETA Senior Director of Youth Outreach and Campaigns, Marta Holmberg, added: “Christopher Columbus High School took to heart the public’s outrage over its decision to hold a tiger inside a tiny cage at its prom.
“The school now joins more than 620 venues and dozens of communities across the country that have prohibited wild-animal exhibits, and TeachKind looks forward to an animal-free future at all its future events.”