Undercover video footage from a recent visit by the Humane Society of the United States at Bill Meadows’ Tiger Safari in Tuttle, Oklahoma, led to a U.S. Department of Agriculture citation for causing animals trauma and stress. The inspection report was made public last week.
In March 2021 an HSUS investigator visited the facility, attended a “VIP Encounter,” and provided the USDA with disturbing undercover video showing a screaming baby otter and a dazed fennec fox, both forced to endure handling by the public.
On July 8, the USDA released an inspection report that cited Tiger Safari for improper handling of the animals which acknowledged the otter’s distress and stated that the fox “appeared catatonic.”
Lisa Wathne, senior strategist of captive wildlife for the Humane Society of the United States, released the following statement:
“Callous operators of these inadequate, substandard facilities force stressed and frightened wild animals to be handled by the paying public. Whether they’re a lonely, distressed otter screaming frantically, a catatonic fox or tiger cubs torn from their mothers at birth, Tiger Safari and dozens of outfits just like it put profit ahead of animal welfare and public safety. 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.”
Gillian Lyons, senior regulatory specialist for the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said:
“We’ve known for years that Tiger Safari’s treatment of animals is problematic and ensuring facilities like this don’t get away with ongoing abuse is a must. We appreciate that USDA inspected and cited this facility in response to the video provided by the Humane Society of the United States. We urge the agency to continue to take additional concrete steps to stop outfits that repeatedly violate the Animal Welfare Act in their tracks. This Administration has promised to take animal welfare enforcement seriously, and they must hold themselves to that promise.”
Tiger Safari has been on the HSUS’ radar for over a decade. Since 2010, the operation has had more than 100 USDA citations for violating the Animal Welfare Act. A 2014 HSUS undercover investigation revealed that Meadows snatched newborn tiger cubs from their mothers, subjected them to public handling and harsh discipline, and caged them for the remainder of their lives. The USDA’s subsequent inspection in response to the HSUS investigation resulted in a 14-page report of citations.
Additional info on a growing trend
The HSUS reports that public interaction with otters is not only happening at Tiger Safari, but sadly growing in popularity across the U.S. Many facilities do not advertise their hands-on encounters with otters possibly to avoid scrutiny, but the HSUS is aware of these otter encounters:
- North Georgia Wildlife & Safari Park, Cleveland, Georgia, Otter experiences
- Otis and Friends, Otisco, Indiana, Otter encounters
- Barn Hill Preserve, Ethel, Louisiana, Otter swim
- Animal Adventure, Harpursville, New York, Painting with otters
- Extreme Animals, Tuttle, Oklahoma, Swim with an otter
- SeaQuest, Fort Worth, Texas and Trumbull, Connecticut
- Blue Hills Ranch, McGregor, Texas, Swimming with otters or otter playtime
- Debbie Doolittle’s Petting Zoo, Tacoma, Washington, Otter encounters