The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Tiger Safari, Tuttle, OK, for mishandling their animals during a pay-to-play encounter after video footage circulated of a baby otter screaming and crying in fear at the facility in March.
On March 28, a representative for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) attended a pay-to-play VIP encounter at Tiger Safari and obtained disturbing footage of animals in distress. The undercover footage was turned over to the USDA. When the agency failed to take action, HSUS shared the video footage publicly.
The video shows a 6-month-old Asian small-clawed otter being carried around a room of about 20 people while it screams over and over again.
“The handler tried to soothe it by bouncing it in her arms, blowing air into its face, placing her hand over and around its head, and even moving it to another part of the room to hold it up into the air,” USDA Veterinary Medical Officer Bonnie Boone said in the report. However, the baby otter “continued to vocalize.”
Shortly after the otter was brought out, Tiger Safari brought out a fennec fox for visitors to interact with.
“Its tail and free left foreleg hung limp and did not move,” Boone said. “Its eyes looked as though they were fixed in a stare, it appeared catatonic.”
The handler was holding the fox, but it had no harness or leash.
“The fox was circulated around the room so that people could touch or pet its exposed fur and tail,” Boone noted. “It did not appear to react to stimuli.”
Boone cited the roadside zoo with a non-critical violation for their handling of the animals during the VIP encounter.
“The river otter and fennec fox exhibited signs of behavioral stress and unnecessary discomfort,” Boone said.
Tiger Safari is owned by Bill Meadows. For years the roadside zoo has been under investigation for its animal mistreatment. The facility has racked up more than 100 USDA violations. In 2019, the USDA fined Tiger Safari $15,000 for continually violating the Animal Welfare Act by failing to provide proper care to their animals.
HSUS released a statement on Tiger Safari.
“Tiger Safari and dozens of outfits just like it put profit ahead of animal welfare and public safety,” the statement said in part. “The public needs to know that interactions with wild animals support a cruel industry and the fastest way to stop it is to stop patronizing these facilities.”