Worker is bitten by tiger at fair
By Randy Lefko
EAST PALATKA — A 4-year-old Bengal tiger bit the hand of an exhibit employee who, for unknown reasons, stuck his arm in the cage Sunday morning, according to Putnam County Sheriff’s reports.
Jason Wayne Hardin, 25, of Westville, was very intoxicated when the incident occurred at the Putnam County Fairgrounds, said the report. Hardin was transported from Putnam Community Medical Center to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville for further treatment. Hardin is employed by Adriatic Animal Attractions Inc. as a driver and laborer. Hardin was treated and released Monday, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Law Enforcement Officer Kat Kelley.
Fair spokesperson Weezie Smith said the incident should not deter families from enjoying the animal exhibit.
“This was an unfortunate incident that occurred of an employee that came with the show,” said Smith. “The sheriff’s office and the Game and Fish people have cleared the area as safe and we encourage the public to come see these beautiful animals.”
Smith said this is the first time that such an exhibit has been to Putnam County’s fair, but that all inspections and safety precautions have been done and approved by state officials.
“We try each year to add improvements to the fair,” said Smith, entertainment chairperson for the last five years. “The gentleman who was bit, from what I have been told, was not supposed to be near the cages.”
According to sheriff’s reports, Deputy Wayne Jones was contacted at 2:25 a.m. while Hardin was en route to PCMC. The FWC was notified by sheriff’s deputies. An investigation revealed all safety requirements for a traveling exhibition had been met and the exhibit passed an inspection by the commission just two weeks ago.
Kelley said the incident is just a matter of a bad decision.
“We were told by the sister that his blood alcohol level was extremely high,” said Kelley. “This is just a good case of too much alcohol and bad decision-making.”
Hardin would not let investigators see his wounds, but Kelley was at Shands Hospital when Hardin left and said he told them he had six puncture wounds and some lacerations from the animal’s claws.
“He had a cast from just below his shoulder to his wrist,” said Kelley. “He was obviously in a lot of pain.”
FWC did a thorough investigation just two weeks ago, said Kelley, with the tiger cages and holding areas passing all inspections.
“I would repeat that the staff for the animals have done everything they could to ensure a safe exhibit and we agree,” said Kelley. “The exhibit has no safety problems and the tiger, Mohan, has no history of violent behavior.”
Staff members for Adriatic Animals Inc. declined to comment Monday.
Carole’s letter to the reporter:
Thanks for covering this, but is seems like EVERYONE you spoke to either missed the point or tried to play it down.
Why are tigers at the fair anyway?
Those who make their living off tigers will try to tell you that tiger bites are not that common, but the evidence proves otherwise. They will usually point to the number of dog bites or car accidents by comparison, but that isn’t a fair comparison if you take into consideration the percentage of dog bites or car accidents compared to the total number of dogs and cars.
The biggest question really should be, “Why do we have tigers at the fair?”
Their promoters will say they are educating people about tigers in the wild, but their education program usually consists of having their staff pet and kiss the tigers or make them do stupid pet tricks for a piece of meat. That doesn’t teach people anything about what a wild tiger is like. Outfits like the one hired by the Putnam County Fair are even worse because the parade out nine white and tabby tigers and talk about how they are breeding them for conservation. White and tabby tigers are the result of severe inbreeding and they do not survive to adulthood in the wild because they lack camouflage and are genetically so inferior that they have a very low survival rate even in captivity. A white tiger, tabby tiger or liger show is nothing more than a freak show designed to deceive the public. It is not safe (as proven by the fact that even a drunk could get over the fence and into the cage) and it is inhumane.
The following is a partial listing of incidents involving captive big cats since 1990. These incidents have resulted in the killing or deaths of 226 big cats, 63 human deaths, more than 221 human maulings, and just since 2003 there have been 69 exotic cat escapes and 354 confiscations. https://bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm
Big Cat Rescue has to turn away more than 100 unwanted big cats each year because of acts like this that use and discard the cats as they get older and too hard to use. The public has the power of their voices and their pocketbook to stop the suffering, abandonment and abuse by not patronizing places that exploit animals.
If the state of Florida is going to allow these side shows to go from town to town then shouldn’t the public have some assurance that the people transporting them are not prone to drunkenness and bad judgment?
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
Sign our petition here: