The theme for prom night for Miami high school Christopher Columbus student was “Welcome to the Jungle” and the organizer brought in a surprise guest to the dance floor, a caged tiger.
The tiger was wheeled in to the DoubleTree Hotel at the Miami International Airport Friday night to the surprise of the prom guests.
Maria Castellanos, a parent, said the entertainment was inappropriate. Castellanos said she wasn’t just concerned for the safety of the students, but also for the animals, including a tiger.
That tiger was in distress,” she said. “The reason he is pacing up and down and his ears (are) going back is because he is showing you distress.”
The prom’s entertainment also included fire dancers dressed as animals.
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,” a school spokesperson said.
But video shows the tiger is seen pacing in the cage while performers use fire to entertain the graduating class.
These animals are not entertainment,” Castellanos said.
School officials contend that several animals — including a lemur, two macaws, an African fennec fox and the tiger — were displayed in a very controlled situation.
But the pictures obtained show those animals and others, such as other birds, used as centerpieces.
The school said the animals were provided by a facility that’s licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
But despite credentialed handlers, Castellanos said it’s the message that worries her.
The saddest part of it all is teaching the children that there is no merit to the life of that animal — that that animal doesn’t deserve any better,” Castellanos said.
Principal David Pugh said the school heard from parents.
Some individuals have expressed their sentiments about the use of animals as part of a performance at prom. We recognize this decision has offended some and for that we apologize. Although it was in a controlled environment and handled by professionals approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, we understand how some individuals may 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. We all have learned a great deal from this experience.