Male Bengal/Siberian Tiger
If you saw The Tiger Next Door on Animal Planet, then you saw the horrid conditions at the facility owned by Dennis Hill in Flatrock, Indiana. The Tiger Next Door didn’t air until 3/25/2010 and it was about USDA taking away Hill’s permit and the DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) seizing all but three tigers in 2005. What the show doesn’t bring out is that the conditions you saw in the movie were far better than when DNR first inspected, although there were a few glimpses of tigers in mud up to their bellies, and it doesn’t show that the awful, pre 2005 conditions were the status quo as far back as 1995 when I was there.
The tigers in the documentary, The Tiger Next Door, that ended up at Joe Taft’s place in Indiana, named Tony and Patty where Shere Khan’s parents. When I visited in 1995 he had rows upon rows of dog run styled cages, a foot or more deep in rotting feces and mud, filthy water pans, flimsy cages, some had only a rope or belt to hold a door shut, no roofs on many of the cages and then there was the barn. You didn’t see much of it in the film, but it was dark, filthy and crammed as full of leopards, tigers, cougars and other exotic cats as could be fitted in tiny, barren cages.
The version on Animal Planet also didn’t show much of Dennis Hill’s house and the obvious signs of hoarding. It was so nasty I didn’t want to touch anything in the house. My skin crawled from fleas and mites. I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and back to our plane, but that is when I saw Shere Khan.
Shere Khan stole our hearts when we saw him on 3/12/95. Though he was bred to be a White Tiger, he was born “the wrong color.” His birth was a result of the incessant demand for White Tigers by a public that is fascinated by oddities. Though many people believe that the White Tiger is an “endangered” species that should be bred to be saved, this is a total lie.
The White Tiger results from a color mutation that happens infrequently in the wild and usually is not passed along. White animals in a forest environment would not live long due to their inability to hide and sneak up on prey. When you hear the phrase “survival of the fittest,” remember that nature does not allow the genetically mutated White Tiger to survive in the wild nor should we in captivity.
Shere Khan did not have much of a chance for survival from the start. Dennis Hill had pre-sold him as a white cub, but the purchaser kept putting off his delivery date. He finally cancelled the sale when Shere Khan was already four months old. The breeders were left with a quickly growing cub on their hands and no other facilities for him other than a small carrier. He was up to his belly in feces and decaying food in a pet taxi that seemed to just bust at the seams with tiger fur.
He never got the vitamins and exercise he needed as a growing cub, so his back legs were badly underdeveloped. He was very sick for a long time and suffered major problems from calcium deficiency. X-rays showed that his baby canine teeth were rotting in their sockets from his malnourishment and they had to be excised because they had rotted through his face. His bones were mere paper shells and one wrong jump could easily break a leg. We supplemented him three times a day with calcium to encourage healthy bones and teeth.
Shere Khan is a perfect example of why people should not be allowed to have such animals as pets. Though he is now well over 700 pounds and the picture of health, it has been a long, expensive road getting him to this healthy state. His 3-acre cat-a-tat provides him with plenty of room to run through the marsh and swim in the spring-fed lake. He has been neutered so that there is no “accidental” breeding with his constant companion and playmate China Doll. He is well loved by all.
Dennis Hill’s facility was finally shut down by USDA and the Indiana DNR in 2005, but the DNR allowed him to keep 3 tigers and now he has even more. Read about it HERE.