Detroit's tiger cub photo represents the opposite of hope for big cats
UPDATE: Since this posting, the Detroit Tigers organization has taken these photos down from its website and Facebook page….
Today is the official opening day for Major League Baseball in America.
For many, the day signifies hope - a new season, a fresh start, a promise of a good year. Millions of fans from all over the nation flock to stadiums to cheer on their favorite baseball heroes. Many of these fans are children who look up to the athletes as role models and emulate their behaviors.
This is why we were especially disappointed to hear that, last Friday (March 29), the Detroit Tigers organization posted photos on its Facebook page of its star players handling a tiger cub at a spring training game.
The photos got so much attention that they were subsequently posted on USA Today's website.
Undoubtedly, the Tigers, like so many other animal enthusiasts in the U.S., did not realize that cub photo ops represent the very opposite of "hope".
Not only do the photos send the wrong message that handling a wild big cat and treating it like a "pet" is an acceptable thing to do, and frighteningly, despite the fact that 17 adults and 5 children in the U.S. have been killed and nearly 300 other people have been injured by captive big cats within recent years, many people added comments to the Facebook posting that express enthusiasm for owning a tiger, but these photo op's also represent less than a hopeful situation for the poor cub.
After all, he was brought to the ballpark by Dade City's Wild Things Zoo, a private zoo that shamefully allows the public to swim, bottle feed and cuddle with tiger cubs and has repeatedly been cited by the USDA due to poor veterinary care, improper cub handling, and unacceptable fencing, among other disturbing issues.
Dozens of U.S. traveling zoos and roadside exhibitors profit from charging the public a fee to pet and pose with tiger cubs and other large big cats.
People don't realize when they patronize these facilities that they are contributing to a huge public safety and animal welfare problem that exists in the U.S. today.
After the cubs grow too big and dangerous for handling, all too often they could be kept in someone's backyard; sent to a roadside zoo; bred incessantly to further fuel the cub handling trade, or could even be killed.
In one notorious incident of severe cruelty, investigators found more than 90 dead tigers, including 58 cubs stuffed into freezers, on the property a self-professed animal "rescuer" who charged admission for people to visit the tigers.
This is why passing the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act - a nationwide ban on private big cat ownership and breeding that will soon been reintroduced in Congress-is so important.
The Detroit tigers now have a key opportunity to use their national voice to turn this around and pledge that they will, in the future, choose not to pose with tiger cubs because they would never knowingly want to support an industry that thrives off the exploitation of big cats.
This would be a most appropriate way to kick off a season of hope.