Florida zoo offers tiger cub as swim buddy
DADE CITY, Fla. (WHDH) -- A private zoo is causing controversy after offering outdoor activities with a Siberian tiger cub.
At Dade City's Wild Things in Pasco County, lions are allowed to roam, you can pet a monkey or swim with a 6-week old Siberian tiger cub.
Some critics are comparing the tiger swim to alligator swim parties that made headlines in Madeira beach last month and say big cats and small kids aren't a good combination.
Though Wild Things president and head trainer disagrees, he acknowledges that there is a risk.
"Well, with any animal there's always a risk," said Randy Stearns. "It's not like we're gonna just throw you in the pool and say, 'Here's the tiger.' You're in there with at least one of the trainers actually in the water with you."
Stearns said tigers are natural born swimmers, with webbing between their toes.
"They're very strong, but they're also very well trained," he said. "That's why a lot of other facilities don't let you interact with the cubs, because they don't have the staff or the knowledge to do it."
And a lack of regulation, makes this attraction perfectly legal.
"The tigers by state law, like Tony here, can only be with the public until they're 40 pounds."
Right now, Tony is only eight pounds but is expected to weigh about 1,000 pounds by the time he's an adult. State law also states that the cats have to be exhibited in a manner that prevents injuries to the public and to the animals.
As for the private zoo, head trainer Stearns said you can only swim with tigers and alligators at the facility. They don't offer private parties.
Swimming with Tony comes with a hefty fee. You must sign a general release and for $200 you can frolic with Tony for 30 minutes in the water, on the lawn and even help out with his bottle feeding.