Group asks USDA to investigate underfed tigers at State Fair
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A national non-profit animal protection group filed a request Thursday with the USDA claiming the group overseeing the tigers at the Missouri State Fair violated the Animal Welfare Act.
Animal Legal Defense Fund Staff Attorney Jessica Blome wrote a letter to the USDA requesting the department investigate Orlando, Florida-based PM Productions Entertainment, Inc. and its owner Robert Mullen.
Many KOMU 8 News viewers called in with concerns about the physical appearance of tigers at the state fair Aug. 18. Photos of the exhibit have gone viral with multiple sanctuaries sharing the photos through their social media pages and encouraging users to take action.
"According to a firestorm of media coverage last weekend, Missouri State Fair visitors were horrified to witness emaciated tigers performing circus tricks during Mr. Mullen's Amazing Rainforest Adventures exhibition," Blome wrote. "Failing to provide adequate food and water to animals exhibited to the public is a direct violation of the Animal Welfare Act."
Blome cited media sources in her letter that reported Mullen said he fed the tigers 13 to 14 pounds of chicken daily. Blome said tigers need much more food, including red meat, bones and organs in order to thrive. She said people have speculated Mullen deliberately deprived the tigers to motivate them to perform for food.
In her letter, Blome says, "ALDF asks the USDA to assess civil penalties and suspend or revoke Mr. Mullen's license to ensure future compliance with the AWA."
According to Blome, this isn't the first time Mullen has had complaints.
"In 2013, the International Fund for Animal Welfare released a video documenting Mr. Mullen's trainers forcing emaciated cats, including tigers and cougars, to perform during a county fair," she wrote.
Blome said a former employee also came forward and reported seeing Mullen transporting a tiger from Orlando, Florida, to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in the back of a pickup truck.
Executive Director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund Stephen Wells said, "ALDF has asked the USDA to consider suspending or revoking Mr. Mullen's license, so that no additional animals can suffer in his care."
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to link to the letter Jessica Blome wrote to the USDA.]