PETA files civil lawsuit against Dade City's Wild Things

Inspected property with federal law enforcement
Posted at 6:41 PM, Aug 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-04 18:41:27-04

PETA representatives spent a few hours inside Dade City's Wild Things Friday taking photos and video.

A Federal Judge granted them the opportunity but they were met at the front gate by opposition.

PETA, a national animal rights activist group, is usually protesting.

"PETA is using their agenda to bankrupt people or to civilly assault them," said Rachel O'Connor of Wesley Chapel.

Today they were on the other side of things.

"The fact that a judge would allow an activist entity to come in and do an inspection on a place that they have in civil court is just insane," said O'Connor.

WIld Things' owner Cathy Stearns was forced to let PETA inside her zoo under order by a federal judge. PETA was escorted inside by U.S. Marshals.

The zoo charges guests hundreds of dollars for close encounters with exotic animals. But the United States Department of Agriculture fined Wild Things $21,000 back in March and ordered the zoo to stop a popular attraction-- swimming with tiger cubs.

Federal officials ruled a PETA undercover video showed handlers "exposing them to rough or excessive public handling."

"Some of the enclosures were as small as six or seven feet wide square and those are the ones closest to the pool that the public never sees," said PETA's Jenni James who went inside the zoo today.

James says PETA is concerned about 19 tigers transported out of the zoo after the USDA shut down the swimming attraction.

"We knew to expect this because you really have to wonder what Dade City Wild Things had to hide when it would ship 19 tigers more than 18 hours in the sweltering summer heat in a cattle trailer to another roadside facility," she said.

PETA's civil lawsuit against Wild Things is pending.