High school accused of 'exploiting animals' after having tiger, other caged animals at prom

One high school gave new meaning to the term “party animals” by treating promgoers to a jungle-themed dance complete with a caged tiger, a lemur, an African fennec fox, and two macaws. Now it’s facing some major fallout.

As the Miami Herald reports, Florida’s Christopher Columbus High School sparked controversy by having live animal attractions at its “Welcome to the Jungle”-inspired prom last Friday.

The Miami-Dade private Catholic school for boys hired an event space at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Miami Airport & Convention Center for the dance. Organizers then went the extra mile by hiring fire dancers and arranging for exotic animals — including a live tiger — to be presented in small enclosures. The animals were reportedly provided by facilities licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The prom’s displaying of a caged tiger has given rise to allegations of animal cruelty. (Photo: Dodik Putro/EyeEm/Getty Images)
The prom’s displaying of a caged tiger has given rise to allegations of animal cruelty. (Photo: Dodik Putro/EyeEm/Getty Images)

One student’s sibling was quick to blast the zoolike atmosphere as “animal cruelty,” calling it a “mindless” move that put the tiger in “misery.”

An animal behavior expert agreed that the tiger appeared to be distressed based on its body language.

“The tiger is clearly looking for a way to get out of that situation, it’s not difficult to interpret that behavior,” ZooMiami spokesman Ron Magill told the Miami Herald. “He was surrounded by people, cell phones, lights, jugglers juggling fire. I really don’t know what they were thinking. Exploiting animals for entertainment at parties — that time has passed. We know better; we’ve been educated.”

School officials initially defended the animals’ presence, noting that Miami-Dade officers were in attendance and that the creatures were provided by licensed facilities.

“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,” a statement said.

But as Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper reports, principal David Pugh issued an apology on Sunday.

“Moving forward, we will evaluate our current policies and procedures in the planning and management of school events, including the impact these have on others,” Pugh said in a statement posted to the school’s website. “We all have learned a great deal from this experience.”

It’s not the first time that prom night has involved animals. Last year, a Philadelphia mom made headlines by hiring a live camel for an extravagant Dubai-themed prom photo shoot for her teenage son.

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