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Florida wildlife officials say they’re looking into a South Florida high school’s jungle-themed prom featuring a caged tiger that caused an uproar on social media and drew the ire of animals rights group PETA.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said they’ll determine if any violation of the state’s captive wildlife rules took place during Christopher Columbus High School’s prom, the organization said in a statement Monday.
The event, which took place Friday at the Double Tree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center, featured several themed decorations and animals including a lemur, two macaws, an African Fennec Fox and a tiger, according to a statement issued by the school.
Video posted on Facebook shows the tiger pacing around inside the cage in the center of a dance floor as performers holding torches dance in the surrounding area.
The FWC said if all rules and regulations are followed, exhibition of wildlife at public events isn’t prohibited by Florida law.
“The FWC promotes responsible ownership of captive wildlife, and it is the goal of the FWC to develop the best regulations possible that provide for public safety, animal welfare, and the legitimate use of wildlife for educational, exhibition, or personal purposes,” the FWC said in a statement. “Florida’s captive wildlife regulations are among the most stringent in the nation.”
In a statement, the school said the animals were displayed in a “very controlled situation” and were provided by facilities licensed by the FWC. The facility, Predators Unlimited, is a licensed facility with permits for the exhibition and sale of animals, the FWC said.
“The tiger, which was displayed for a few minutes in a cage, was never harmed or in danger, was not forced to perform, was always accompanied by his handlers, and for the great majority of the time was lying down in a relaxed state facing away from the audience,” the school said in its statement.
After video showing the tiger was posted on Facebook by the brother of a Columbus High student, many on social media expressed outrage. PETA also released an angry statement alleging animal cruelty and calling on the school’s principal to ban animals from future events.
In a new statement released Monday, Columbus High principal David Pugh said the school regretted the decision to have live animals at the prom.
“This incident in no way reflects our school’s Marist values and/or accomplishments of our young men nor our sensitivity to animal rights. We will immediately evaluate our current policies and procedures regarding all school activities and events,” Pugh’s statement read. “We can assure the Columbus community and all who have expressed concern, that we are sorry. We have learned a great deal from this experience.”