DADE CITY, Fla. —
Dade City Wild Things is permanently banned from ever owning or possessing tigers again.
And, six tigers were removed Tuesday from the animal attraction in Pasco County.
That’s the ruling handed down by a judge in a lawsuit PETA brought against the zoo. In the lawsuit, PETA claimed Dade City Wild Things separated tiger cubs from mothers and forced them to swim with paying members of the public. And, PETA argued the attraction did not provide adequate housing and care to its tigers.
According to its website, Dade City Wild Things offers various animal encounters, including swimming with tiger cubs, otters and baby alligators.
PETA says Dade City Wild Things violated the country’s Endangered Species Act with its actions and business. A judge for the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida ruled in favor of PETA, saying the zoo and owners Kathryn and Randall Stearns violated the federal law by "possessing, delivering, carrying, and transporting tigers who have been unlawfully taken."
On March 23, a ruling came down in favor of PETA. The organization also demanded that Dade City Wild Things never be allowed to own tigers again or have anyone on the property possess tigers.
Per the ruling, PETA is able to remove all tigers from the property and take them to a sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. Several tigers are named in the ruling, including Shiva, Noah, Harley, Stormy, Sheila, Admiral, Camelia, Rauri, Rajjah, Luna and Remington.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the tigers removed from the property on Tuesday were taken to a facility in Colorado. Court documents say the tigers are headed to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo.
"This action was a result of a civil lawsuit between PETA and Dade City Wild Things owner Kathy Stearns. The FWC was not a part of this lawsuit; however, at Ms. Stearns’ request, we have assisted in arranging the placement of additional animals in her possession at Dade City Wild Things with other properly licensed facilities in Florida," FWC spokesperson Melody Kilborn said in a statement.
Dade City Wild Things has not returned a request for comment. According to the website and a voice recording on its main phone line, the park is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The closing of the PETA vs. Dade City Wild Things case and removal of tigers comes on the heels of a Netflix series putting a spotlight back on the issue of owning big cats in the U.S.
In July 2017, Dade City Wild Things transferred 19 tigers to the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, defying a federal judge's order, according to the Tampa Bay Times. That zoo used to be owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, the subject of the new Netflix series "Tiger King."
Maldonado-Passage in 2017 confirmed to the Times that a pregnant tiger gave birth during the trip and all three cubs died. The removal and transport of the tigers came nine months after PETA first filed the lawsuit.
"Tiger King" focuses on Joe Exotic, his zoo and a rivalry with Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin. The Tampa park is an animal sanctuary housing dozens of rescued tigers, lions and other big cats.
Maldonado-Passage was convicted in a murder-for-hire plot against Baskin and was sentenced in January to 22 years in prison.
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