A private Catholic high school in Miami, Florida is under fire for featuring multiple animals, including a caged tiger, at Friday’s prom.
According to ABC affiliate Local 10, the animals were provided by facilities licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and fell under the “Welcome to the Jungle” theme of this year’s Christopher Columbus High School dance.
In addition to the caged tiger, school officials said a lemur, two macaws and an African fennec fox were also on site.
Video of the animals at Friday’s event at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Miami Airport and Convention Center made its way to social media, immediately causing uproar among parents online.
“This poor tiger was used as an EXOTIC amusement for the mindless teenagers who were present,” Mari-Cris Castellanos, whose brother attends the school, wrote in a Facebook post with videos of the tiger. “It is not the student fault to be so naive BUT it’s the CCHS STAFF who arranged this event.”
“Whoever booked this event, with its exotic entertainment, might have not realized the message they were sending to the children attending the prom,” the student’s mother, Maria Del Carmen Castellanos, told NBC Miami.
The school issued an initial statement after Local 10 obtained the videos in an effort to reassure the public that 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 laying down in a relaxed state, facing away from the audience.”
But parents and other wildlife officials, including Ron Magill of Zoo Miami, told outlets the tiger in the videos showed signs of distress.
“It's not even walking,” Magill told ABC News. “It's going back and forth, back and forth; its tail is slashing back and forth; its ears are going into helicopter mode -- all signs of distress.”
Some students, however, said the situation was blown out of proportion.
School principal David Pugh issued a second statement Monday morning to address the incident:
"Upon reflection, we regret the decision to have live animals at our prom," he said. "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.”
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