TAMPA — The animal welfare organization PETA has filed a federal lawsuit against Dade City's Wild Things Inc., alleging the zoo prematurely separates tiger cubs from mothers within days of birth to exploit them for public encounters.
The complaint, filed Oct. 12 in U.S. District Court in Tampa, states that the zoo allows up to two dozen people at a time to "pet, play, pick up, hold and kiss" cubs, at a cost of $19.99 each, or to pay $299 for one-on-one encounters. It tells of tiger cubs forced to swim with humans in chlorinated water.
Operators Randall and Kathryn Stearns are also named as defendants.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture filed an administrative complaint over the zoo's handling of tiger cubs last year.
Kathryn Stearns said at the time that PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — had targeted the zoo and pressured the USDA into acting.