An animal trainer in Florida was hospitalized after being scratched and dragged by a tiger while performing for a school field trip at a fair, officials said.
A video of the incident allegedly taken by a student on a field trip to the Pensacola Interstate Fair has surfaced on social media. The dramatic footage shows a female trainer with a tiger in an enclosed area, while children and adults a few feet away watch behind a fence. The tiger appears to scratch the trainer, causing her to fall to the ground. The woman is seen repeatedly hitting the tiger with a rod as the animal grabs her leg and drags her across the ground. A male trainer then enters the cage and hits the tiger with a rod until the animal releases the woman.
“My daughter recorded it on her tablet,” Scott Caputo wrote in a post accompanying the video on Facebook, which has already been shared hundreds of times. “Holly thinks it was no big deal. I thought it was horrifying.”
According to ABC affiliate WEAR, fair officials said the trainer, identified as Vicenta Pages, suffered a three-inch cut on her knee and a laceration on her ankle from the incident on Tuesday. She was taken to a local hospital where she underwent surgery due to concerns of an infection, WEAR reported.
“We’re dealing with wild animals here and although we take every precaution, accidents like this sometimes happen,” David Donnert, Pages’ fiancé and co-owner of the tiger show, said in a statement Tuesday. “We know the hazards of our job, but we love these beautiful animals and Vicenta will be back as soon as she’s able.”
Pages and Donnert manage and perform in the tiger show, called “Pages White Tigers Show.” Both were performing when the incident took place. Pages is now back home with her family and is in good condition, Pensacola Interstate Fair officials told ABC News on Wednesday.
In a press release, fair officials said the video shot by an audience member provides a different account of the incident. The fair remains open through Sunday but the tiger show has been cancelled.
“Fair officials did not witness the incident and relied upon an account statement provided by Pages White Tiger Show when responding to press inquiries. The fair apologizes for any misinformation. The Pensacola Interstate Fair does not condone the mistreatment of animals,” Pensacola Interstate Fair spokeswoman Katie King said in a statement Wednesday. “The show has been canceled for the remainder of the fair. All other entertainment acts and exhibits will continue as scheduled.”
A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told ABC News investigators are looking into the incident.
WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society is filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agricultural, Animal Plant Inspection Service, regarding the beating of the tiger by the Pages White Tigers Show owners, Vicenta Pages and David Donnert. “The blatant abuse of the tiger by the owner as depicted in the video is atrocious. These types of performances at fairs and carnivals are a disgraceful form of entertainment and do not, by any stretch of the imagination, aid in the conservation of tigers in the wild or provide any meaningful educational experience; they need to be permanently shut down,” said WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society’s, CEO Lisa Ann Salamat.