Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Controversial exotic animal act set to return to Las Vegas.

Posted: 16 October 2017. Updated: 31 October 2017

Animal Defenders International (ADI) condemns the imminent return of Dirk Arthur’s controversial exotic cat show – featuring a snow leopard and a bobcat – to the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino November 15th (revised from November 1st). Footage previously obtained by ADI shows that Dirk Arthur’s exotic cats suffer extreme confinement and environmental deprivation, enduring hours in tiny travel cages and prop boxes, and living in cement and chain link cells, all for only a few minutes onstage. ADI calls on Westgate to cancel Arthur’s cruel act.

Watch ADI’s expose »

Christina Scaringe, ADI General Counsel, said: “Exotic cat acts once dominated the Las Vegas scene, but times have changed. A growing number of Americans are turning their back on inhumane entertainment, understanding that wild animals belong in the wild, not on the Strip. ADI urges Westgate Casino to drop Dirk Arthur’s cat acts once and for all.”

ADI’s undercover video compiles findings from our investigations in 2011, 2014, and 2015, of the Dirk Arthur compound (where animals are housed) and performances, including those at Harrah’s Hotel Casino in Reno Nevada, and O’Shea’s, Riviera, and Westgate Casinos in Las Vegas. For the few minutes Arthur’s exotic cats appear onstage, they must endure approximately six hours a day in tiny travel cages and prop boxes barely larger than their bodies. The animals spend almost a third of their day confined in travel cages that are just 3 feet wide by 3 feet high by 5 feet long – about the length of a bathtub. When not performing, the animals are warehoused in a series of small cement and chain link cells in Arthur’s backyard, in a residential area of Las Vegas.

When ADI first released the footage in 2015, Dr. Justin Boorstein (DVM with 10 years’ exotic cat experience at Big Cat Rescue) and Jonathan Kraft (former Las Vegas performer with big cats, now Founder and Director of Keepers of the Wild and Wild Planet sanctuaries) spoke out.

“It appears in the video many of the cats are pacing, in this case it is clearly from stress and boredom. With such small cages packed in like sardines it would require a lot of enrichment to mentally stimulate them,” Dr. Justin Boorstein said. “As I see with many of our rescues and trips to the vet, transporting a big cat is stressful. It can also be dangerous to the public if they were to get into an accident, have faulty caging or have an unloading/loading accident. Every time you move a dangerous animal you need to have a disaster plan for the worst case scenario."

“Times have changed and it’s just appalling how these animals live on concrete, from box to box to box. They’ve got a miserable life and it’s really a terrible form of abuse” said Jonathan Kraft.

Dirk Arthur has been cited numerous times by the USDA for violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including citations for hazards related to a snow leopard’s caging condition and a bobcat entangled in his own neck chain and fencing. Arthur was cited in 2013 for failure to provide adequate veterinary care, after he declawed two juvenile tigers and a juvenile lion. Declawing is a painful, often debilitating, procedure that amputates part of each of the cat’s toes and commonly leads to chronic health problems; declawing is prohibited by the USDA and, since 2006, it’s not permitted under the AWA. The AVMA condemns declawing exotic and wild cats for nonmedical reasons. Arthur has also previously been cited for having enclosures that are too small to allow cats “normal postural and social adjustments and adequate freedom of movement,” including the ability to exercise. Previously, in response to these citations and public outcry, Caesars Entertainment pledged to not again host Arthur’s show at the Harrah’s Casino. ADI video reveals Arthur’s cats remained in extreme confinement after that time.

Siegfried and Roy - the most famous Las Vegas exotic cat act – abruptly ended their run at the Mirage in September 2003, after Roy was attacked by a tiger. The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino removed their lion display in 2012, and veteran Las Vegas magician Rick Thomas retired his exotic cats the same year. Exotic cat acts along the Las Vegas Strip have been replaced by successful animal-free human performance shows, such as Cirque du Soleil; it’s time for Dirk Arthur’s cruel act to recede into history.

“In the past decade Las Vegas has transformed and now showcases the finest human acts in the world, it’s time for Dirk to do the right thing, change his act, and retire the animals.” Linda Faso, ADI volunteer representative, Las Vegas, NV.

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