Photos By: HSUS
Undercover video footage from a recent visit by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) at Bill Meadows’ Tiger Safari in Tuttle, Oklahoma, resulted in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issuing a citation for causing animals trauma and stress. The inspection report was recently made public.
In March 2021, a HSUS investigator visited the facility, attended a “VIP Encounter,” and provided the USDA with disturbing undercover video footage showing a screaming baby otter and a dazed fennec fox, both forced to endure handling by the public.
On July 8th, the USDA released the report that cited Tiger Safari for improper handling of the animals which acknowledged the otter’s distress and stated that the fox “appeared catatonic.”
“Callous operators of these inadequate, substandard facilities force stressed and frightened wild animals to be handled by the paying public. Whether they are 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,” Lisa Wathne, senior strategist of captive wildlife for the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. “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.”
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.
“We have 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 the USDA inspected and cited this facility in response to the video provided by the Humane Society of the United States,” stated Gillian Lyons, senior regulatory specialist for the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “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.”
The HSUS reports that public interaction with otters is not only happening at Tiger Safari, but is sadly growing in popularity across the United States. Many facilities do not advertise their hands-on encounters with otters in order to avoid scrutiny.
The following are some facilities that promote otter encounters on their websites:
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