Critics weren’t captivated by a Florida high school’s use of a caged tiger during a “Welcome to the Jungle”-themed prom.
Christopher Columbus High School in Miami-Dade County invited some wild guests to Friday’s annual dance at the Double Tree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center ― the caged giant cat, along with a lemur, macaws and an African fennec fox, the Miami Herald reported.
Footage of the tiger pacing in its enclosure amid the bright lights and fire used by some prom performers caught the attention of Ron Magill, an animal expert and ZooMiami spokesman. He told the Herald the animal “was obviously stressed.”
“The tiger is clearly looking for a way to get out of that situation, it’s not difficult to interpret that behavior,” Magill said. “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.”
Marie-Christine Castellanos, whose brother attended the prom, posted clips on Facebook. “This poor tiger was used as an EXOTIC amusement for the mindless teenagers who were present,” she wrote, blaming the high school staff, not the students.
Castellanos’ post was flooded with messages affirming her condemnation of the school’s prom exhibit. However, one person who identified himself as a Columbus student asked others not to bash his school.
School administrators issued a statement defending the wildlife presentation in the Fox 4 segment above. They noted that police officers were present and that providers of the animals were licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“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 statement read.
On Monday, however, the school did an about face after the backlash.
“Upon reflection, we regret the decision to have live animals at our prom,” Principal David Pugh said in a statement to an ABC affiliate. “This decision in no way reflects the Marist values, teachings of the Catholic Church and/or the accomplishments of our young and that of our distinguished alumni. We remain proud of the work we do in our community by raising awareness for pediatric cancer, autism and our homeless veterans, to name a few.”
A HuffPost request for comment was not immediately returned by the school.