The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited an Illinois man and his Royal Bengal Tigers traveling circus act for six violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) for keeping tigers in hot, cramped, unsafe conditions in a barn.
Adam Burck and his Royal Bengal Tigers act most recently traveled with the Kosair Shrine Circus. Video taken of Burck’s act in Kentucky in May 2021 indicates he owns six tigers that he forces to perform tricks and jump through a ring of fire.
When the tigers are not traveling with the circus, they're kept at Burck's facility in McHenry, IL. A USDA inspector attempted an inspection at Burck’s facility on Dec. 2, 2020, and June 10, 2021, but Burck was unavailable and the inspector was unable to complete an inspection.
On June 14, 2021, USDA Veterinary Medical Officer Michael Tygart completed a “new site” inspection at the facility and cited Burck with three non-critical violations and three direct AWA violations for the inadequate and dangerous conditions he’s keeping his tigers in.
The inspector only counted four tigers at the facility, despite video showing Burck performing with six tigers the previous month.
The tigers are being held in travel cages inside a barn, “with no climate control other than opening the outer roll up doors,” according to the inspection report.
The temperature in the facility was recorded at 92.3 degrees Fahrenheit and Inspector Tygart said the travel cages the tigers are kept in give them no opportunities to cool themselves down.
“Temperature extremes can have a significant impact on the health and well being of animals,” Tygart documented in the report.
Tygard said the only way to ventilate the barn is to raise the doors, but when the doors are raised there is no fence or other security measure to prevent unauthorized access to the animals or to prevent a tiger from escaping into the surrounding area.
Burck told the inspector that the tigers have been living in travel cages since at least March 2020. Although Burck has a temporary exercise pen for the animals to give them periods of exercise, the exercise pen was not up at the time of the USDA inspection, according to the report.
“The tigers were pacing and appeared agitated during the inspection, which can be an indication of stress,” Tygard said. “Travel cages do not provide sufficient space for the animals to move comfortably, exercise, or make normal postural adjustments. This can have a dramatic, negative impact on the health and well being of the animals.”
Tygard said forcing the tigers to live in travel cages can cause physical impairment, mental and emotional distress.
“Appropriate, permanent housing must be available for the animals,” he said.
The facility was also infested with flies and the floor beneath and around the cages “had many live maggots,” according to the report.
The inspector said a 15-year-old tiger named Shere Khan was noticeably thin with prominent hips and vertebrae and had not been seen by a veterinarian in over a year.
“This tiger must be examined by a licensed veterinarian, and treated appropriately for any underlying health condition that might be affecting him,” Tygard said in the report.
The inspection was a site approval inspection but Tygard did not approve Burck’s Royal Bengal Tigers for conducting activity covered under his AWA license.
“The current setup is just not at all appropriate to house and care for dangerous animals,” Tygard said. “The lack of security and the absence of any secondary containment measure is a constant, ongoing potential threat both to the animals and to the surrounding community.”
June 2021 USDA report: