Florida has outdone itself yet again. Kids swimming with baby alligators is not the most dangerous thing you can do at a birthday party. That would now be swimming in a pool with a Siberian tiger cub.
For a cool $200, a “private zoo” called Dade City’s Wild Things lets customers swim in a pool with Tony the tiger cub and one his handlers. (But you’ll have to act quick, because when Tony reaches 40 lbs., he will no longer play with the public.) Wild Things claims to be a “sanctuary” and features numerous other animals, including an adult tiger, who is Tony’s father, and a lion. Guests can interact firsthand with several of the animals: swim with Tony, swim with Ally the four-foot gator, whose mouth is taped shut, or frolic with Baxter the monkey. All customers must sign a general release form.
I love a big kitty as much as the next lunatic and Tony the teeny tiny tiger cub is stupid cute. But aside from the fact this “private zoo director” looks like a 17-year-old boy, I’m worried about the vanishing line between animals and toys. Watching an animal who lives in a habitat at the zoo or a wildlife preserve from afar strikes me as educational and respectful. But playing with animals in human places they don’t belong, like swimming pools, is treating them more like toys. I don’t think teaching kids that wild animals are “fun” — or teaching wild animals that humans aren’t dangerous — is responsible. I’m not an animal expert, so I’ll defer to the folks about Big Cat Rescue about how abusive these practices are to the animals, especially a basically-newborn baby tiger. And I certainly don’t think it’s ethical to breed animals in captivity to make more money for their owners.
The funniest part of this Fox 13 spot is when the newscaster says, incredulously, “There are no laws regulating swimming with tigers!” If Florida — and I’m sure the rest of the country soon, too — continues in this direction, it may be necessary to do just that.