Michael Hackenberger, owner of Bowmanville Zoo in Ontario, Canada, has been charged with animal cruelty after video emerged late last year of him whipping a Siberian tiger in his care. Hackenberger is a well-known Hollywood animal trainer, having trained the tiger for the Oscar-winning film Life Of Pi and supplied animals for The Interview.
Animal rights campaign group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), released footage in December of Hackenberger whipping Uno, a Siberian tiger. Hackenberger later released a reply video in which he apologises for his language but says he did not strike the animal. "I strike the ground beside him," he said. "Peta once again is lying."
In Peta's footage, Hackenberger can be heard swearing at the tiger while cracking a whip. At the end of the video, he says: "If we'd been running a videotape the whole time you were here and you did a 45-second montage of the times I struck this animal, Peta would burn this place to the ground."
Hackenberger was charged with causing an animal to be in distress by striking it with a whip handle; by repeatedly striking it with a whip; by striking it in the face with a whip; by pushing his thumb into its eye; and another charge that encompasses failing to take care of the animal and protect its welfare.
Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), who filed the charges against Hackenberger, has said it will perform further checks on Bowmanville Zoo and continue to monitor animals there.
"The videos of Mr Hackenberger interacting with Uno, the Siberian tiger, provide a basis on which to lay charges," said senior inspector Jennifer Bluhm. "Animal cruelty is a serious offence. Our investigative unit has spent significant time reviewing the facility and interviewing all involved. Our priority is always the health and welfare of the animals."