Florida

PETA blames this Florida zoo for tiger cub deaths. The facility had been warned before.

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PETA has filed an amended complaint in its lawsuit against Dade City's Wild Things zoo to include the deaths of three tiger cubs, according to a news release by the animal rights organization.

The U.S. District court for the Middle District of Florida allowed PETA to amend the existing lawsuit this week.

The cubs died when they were shipped across the country.

"The court’s ruling allows PETA to hold Dade City’s Wild Things’ feet to the fire for sending 19 tigers on an 18-hour journey without air conditioning or water, which proved deadly for three newborn cubs,” PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet said in the release. "Nineteen tigers have subsequently been relocated and are recovering at a reputable sanctuary, and PETA’s lawsuit is working to ensure that this facility will never possess tigers again.”

The cubs were being transported in reaction to another PETA lawsuit against the zoo — one from 2016.

During that legal battle, zoo owners Kathryn and Kenneth Stearns, and Kathryn's son, Randall, shipped 19 tigers to Oklahoma days before a court-ordered animal welfare inspection. While on the 1,200-mile trip, one of the female tigers gave birth and all three cubs died.

Shortly after the incident, a judge ruled that the zoo should never be allowed to own tigers again.

PETA's current lawsuit claims that the private zoo in Pasco County and its owners violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing customers to handle, pet and swim with tiger cubs. PETA alleges that zoo staff forced cubs to interact with customers by forcibly grabbing the animals and not allowing them to escape. The group also says that cubs in the facility's care were prematurely separated from their mothers.

Wild Things president Randall Stearns told WFLA News Channel 8 that the zoo has been conducting tiger swims for more than 10 years and never had a problem. He previously told the news organization that he feels that Wild Things is being singled out by PETA, and is considering taking legal action against the group.

According to Courthouse News, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued several official warnings against the zoo dating to 2010. The alleged violations include inadequate shelter and veterinary care and mishandling of the tigers.

Follow Samantha Putterman on Twitter @samputterman
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