A caged tiger that was part of a South Florida high school's jungle-themed prom is causing an uproar among some social media users.
Video posted on Facebook shows the tiger pacing around inside the cage in the center of a dance floor as performers holding torches dance in the surrounding area. Students at Christopher Columbus High School watch the scene unfold, with some recording the show on their phones.
"How shameful for Christopher Columbus High school ...showing its students on prom night who is the 'king of the jungle,'" Mari-Cristine Castellanos wrote in the Facebook post. "This poor tiger was used as an EXOTIC amusement for the mindless teenagers who were present, it is not the student[s] fault to be so naive BUT it’s the CCHS STAFF who arranged this event, therefore they are responsible for this tiger's misery."
Castellanos' brother goes to Christopher Columbus and her post went on to speak of animal cruelty and abuse allegations.
"1. DID THIS TIGER ASK TO ATTEND PROM? 2. Why didn't anyone open the cage and see what would happen to these 'brave and courageous fire performers?' 3. WHY DOES CCHS ALLOW SUCH ANIMAL CRUELTY?" the post said.
The prom, held on May 11 at the Double Tree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center, featured several themed decorations and animals including a lemur, two macaws, an African Fennec Fox and a tiger, according to a statement issued by the school.
"I didn't find animals to be a source of entertainment or amusement. They're not there for you to laugh, or for you to take pictures and selfies with," Castellanos said.
In the statement, Christopher Columbus High said the animals were displayed in a "very controlled situation" and were provided by facilities licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"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 lying down in a relaxed state facing away from the audience," the school said.
Video posted on social media by @ExplorerNationCCHS, an account claiming to be the school's student activities committee, shows the tiger in a cage in the center of the dance floor, surrounded by a spectacle of music, lights and fire-eaters.
"Mistreatment comes from a multiple of things. When you change their habitat, when you change their environment, when they are exposed to 500 screaming teenagers with fire surrounding them. Tigers are terrified of fire," said Maria Del Carmen Castellanos, the mother of the prom attendee.
The school also said two Miami-Dade police officers were present during the duration of the event.
While the mother disagrees about whether to call it abuse, she concedes she doesn't believe organizers were ill-intentioned.
"I don't think this was done out of a sense of malice. Just a lack of sensitivity. Whoever booked this event, with its exotic entertainment, might have not realized the message they were sending to the children attending the prom," said Castellanos.
On Sunday, the school issued another statement saying it apologizes for those offended and understands how some could be concerned.
"Moving forward, we will evaluate our current policies and procedures in the planning and management of school events, including the impact these events have on others," the statement said. "We all have learned a great deal from this experience."
PETA released a statement on the situation: "Wild animals aren't prom decorations. Displaying a tiger in a tiny cage and allowing students to handle lemurs is cruel to the animals and dangerous for the students, and it sends the harmful message that living beings are props to be used for human amusement."