Groups blast animal use in Detroit Packard Plant photo shoot
Two animal welfare groups are objecting to how exotic animals were handled in a scuttled photo shoot at Detroit’s Packard Plant on Monday.
Born Free USA officials are “calling upon authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the treatment of a tiger, bobcat and two wolves” during the shoot by United Kingdom-based photographer David Yarrow.
Meanwhile, PETA has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revoke the license of the exhibitor involved.
When the tiger “escaped from handlers and cowered in a stairwell,” PETA officials said in a statement Tuesday, “Animals of Montana handlers allowed members of the public to taunt and scare the tiger with a weed whacker and a hedge trimmer, creating a grave risk of harm both to the tiger and the public.”
Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, said in a statement: “We need answers about this whole debacle, which could have easily led to serious injury or death for both humans and animals. ...
“The use of animals in this way not only compromises the welfare of the animals themselves, but also creates extremely dangerous situations for the people around them — especially the men we see in an online video hiding under a tarp, and brandishing a power tool in the tiger’s face. That this did not end in tragedy is beyond lucky. Wild animals belong in the wild, not as photo shoot props inside of a building.”
Packard Plant officials said the animals in the shoot were supplied by Animals of Montana, which is described on its website as a full-service agency providing various creatures to photographers and the movie industry.
Representatives from Animals of Montana did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.
A statement posted on the Facebook page for David Yarrow Photography read in part: “As with all our work across the world, appropriate licences were secured from the relevant agencies in the city of Detroit. We apologise for any concern or confusion regarding the use of these animals for a photoshoot which we believed to be approved (by) the City of Detroit. At no point were there any animals loose or out of control as mentioned in social media.”
City spokesman John Roach said Yarrow “requested and received all the necessary city approvals for his photo shoot, including for the exotic animals.”
The animals in the shoot planned for Monday morning were discovered on the property’s south side when security guards checked for identification and permits, plant officials said.
But Kari Smith, director of development at the Packard Plant, told The Detroit News that the animals were not part of the deal authorizing Yarrow’s shoot and she shut down the event once learning about the four-legged participants. A security guard said the group left with “no problems” when asked.
Police also responded to the scene after social media posts mentioned a tiger on the loose there.
Born Free USA officials on Tuesday said it’s “illegal for large carnivores to be allowed to run at-large” and “Michigan statute requires them to be kept in a facility that ‘is sufficiently secure to prevent the large carnivore’s escape.’ ”
PETA claims Animals of Montana “has a long history of violating federal law.” The group said in 2012, a 24-year-old with the company “was mauled to death by a grizzly bear in an incident that was recognized as preventable by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and for which Animals of Montana was fined $9,000.”
An attorney for the agency has described Benjamin Cloutier’s death while cleaning a pen as a tragic accident; a trainer initially said he may have fallen and hit his head or otherwise lost consciousness before he was killed.
One of the bears in the pen at the time was fatally shot; another bear in the enclosure was found to pose a safety risk and has been confined, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. Last year, Cloutier’s parents sued the facility for wrongful death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.