DADE CITY — Dade City’s Wild Things has run afoul of the United States Department of Agriculture regarding the zoo’s handling of tiger cubs and what the agency asserts is its failure to address a string of violations.
The USDA issued a formal administrative complaint against the private zoo in July.
The complaint accuses the zoo of mishandling animals, maintaining improper enclosures and exhibiting tigers and monkeys at an unsafe distance from the public.
The zoo did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
According to Nick Atwood, campaigns coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, penalties could include license suspension or revocation, a cease-and-desist order and monetary penalties.
“Formal administrative complaints are issued in only the most serious cases,” Atwood said in a prepared statement. “It is time for Dade City’s Wild Things to stop their dangerous and abusive exhibition of tiger cubs.
“This case is further evidence that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission should prohibit public handling of big cats, bears, and primates. Public contact puts animals at risk and endangers the public.”
The USDA has issued violations to the zoo since at least 2010, records show.
On Oct. 10, 2012, the zoo allowed a “Good Morning America” reporter to handle a young tiger named Tony “in a manner that caused the tiger to become visibly stressed, as exhibited by the tiger’s repeated attempts to leave the pool; and the reporter repeatedly pulled the tiger back into the pool,” the USDA complaint said.
Despite being issued an official warning by the USDA in May 2012, the zoo “has continued to mishandle animals, particularly infant and juvenile tigers, exposing these animals and the public to injury, disease and harm,” the complaint says.