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Tiger Safari under fire for mishandling otter during pay-to-play interaction

Tiger Safari, Tuttle, OK, is under fire for their mishandling of animals used during pay-to-play encounters. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has released footage obtained in March 2021 of an otter apparently in distress during a pay-to-play encounter at Tiger Safari.

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. A zoo employee puts her hand in the animal’s mouth to try to quiet it. The employee said the baby otter at Tiger Safari does not even have an enclosure.

In a press release, HSUS said they provided the video of the otter to two animal experts for their opinion.

“The handler physically restrains the animal throughout the encounter, ignoring the clear behavioral expressions of distress,” the experts concluded.

HSUS said other animals included in the pay-to-play encounter were “a young kangaroo passed around in a bag, a ferret and a fennec fox. A handler also paraded lemurs through the group of patrons, including one who was carried upside down by his tail.”

A Tiger Safari employee carries a lemur by its tail. Photo provided by the Humane Society of the United States.

The employees and zoo patrons were not wearing masks as they interacted with the animals, putting the animals at risk of contracting COVID-19.

The mishandling of the animals by unmasked employees and zoo patrons is a violation of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

HSUS said they turned the photos and video footage of the encounter over to the USDA, but the organization failed to take action. In April, Tiger Safari was given a clean USDA inspection.

Tiger Safari is owned by William Meadows. Meadows has done business with many of the characters made famous in the Netflix show “Tiger King.” He has received animals from Joe Exotic of Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and Kevin “Doc” Antle of Myrtle Beach Safari.

For years Tiger Safari has been under investigation for its animal mistreatment. In 2019, the USDA fined Tiger Safari $15,000 for continually violating the AWA by failing to provide proper care to their animals.

A recent visitor to Tiger Safari described appalling conditions.

“The tigers, hyenas and other big cats are literally wasting away in what little area they have,” the visitor said in a Google review. “The cougar had little to no space and it needs to be able to run. He was just pacing [and] it put tears in my eyes.”

The visitor said the animal’s small enclosures had no pool or toys to be used as environmental enrichment.

“This place was very depressing and I hope to God there will be more rules and regulations for these animals,” the visitor said.


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