MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - The theme of this year's prom for Christopher Columbus High School students was "Welcome to the Jungle" -- and some denizens of the jungle even made an appearance, which caught the attention of some people after cellphone video from the event surfaced.
"My son paid to go to a prom," said Maria Castellanos, a parent. “This was the surprise entertainment."
Castellanos said she wasn't just concerned for the safety of the students, but also for the animals, including a tiger.
"That tiger was in distress," she said. “The reason he is pacing up and down and his ears (are) going back is because he is showing you distress."
Video captured the students watching in awe as the caged tiger rolled into prom Friday night at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Miami Airport and Convention Center.
The school has since issued a statement on the situation.
"The tiger, which was displayed for a few minutes in a cage, was never harmed or in danger, was not forced to perform, was always accompanied by his handlers, and for the great majority of the time, was laying down in a relaxed state, facing away from the audience," a school spokesperson said.
But video obtained by Local 10 shows a different picture. The tiger is seen pacing in the cage while performers use fire to entertain the graduating class.
"These animals are not entertainment," Castellanos said.
School officials contend that several animals -- including a lemur, two macaws, an African fennec fox and the tiger -- were displayed in a very controlled situation.
But the pictures obtained show those animals and others, such as other birds, used as centerpieces.
The school said the animals were provided by a facility that's licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
But despite credentialed handlers, Castellanos said it's the message that worries her.
"The saddest part of it all is teaching the children that there is no merit to the life of that animal -- that that animal doesn't deserve any better," Castellanos said.
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