For high schoolers, prom is a very special night. However, for students at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, it turned into a night full of debate about animal abuse.
During the dance, a caged tiger made its debut, along with other exotic animals such as a lemur, macaws, and an African fennec fox, according to the Miami Herald.
The dance took place at the DoubleTree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center, and the appearance of the animals was approved by the school and the venue.
For many attendees, having a tiger as part of the dance was “animal abuse.”
Students took photos and video of the tiger, which paced around its small cage as bright lights and loud music filled the air.
For Ron Magill, a spokesman for ZooMiami, the tiger was in obvious distress.
“The tiger is clearly looking for a way to get out of that situation, it’s not difficult to interpret that behavior…He was surrounded by people, cell phones, lights, jugglers juggling fire. I really don’t know what they were thinking.”
Others pointed out that the tiger was “used as an exotic amusement for the mindless teenagers who were present.”
School officials defended their decision to have the tiger on-site, saying that they followed proper protocol. Two police officers were present and the animals were provided through a licensed facility. According to the school, the tiger was only “displayed for a few minutes.” Also, they claimed that the tiger “for the great majority of the time was lying down in a relaxed state facing away from the audience.”
It’s unclear what company supplied the animals for the event, and how often the company offers their animals for entertainment purposes.
For many people, the idea of using tigers as entertainment is reminiscent of the circus. Circus animals, in general, are thought to be mistreated, from being forced to perform unnatural tricks to living in overly crowded and confining spaces. According to One Green Planet, tigers that are forced to live in small spaces can develop tics like head-bobbing and over-grooming. Moreover, a tiger’s natural instincts can never disappear completely but are “simply suppressed using abusive methods.”
As Magill pointed out, the tiger displayed obvious signs of distress. And even for people who are not experts in animal behavior, they understood that any animal would become aggravated at being pushed into such an unnatural environment. Although the school tried to provide a certain ambiance and theme for their dance, it appears that it was only concerned with following protocol and didn’t think through the implications of a live tiger in a loud and crowded event.