The Tiger Next Door, a documentary film about white tigers in captivity in the US

The Tiger Next Door

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Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.
~Albert Schweitzer, The Philosophy of Civilization

After working on this film for six years, I am clear that wild and exotic animals kept in private captivity are most often leading miserable lives. The majority of people keeping big cats, large wild animals, and exotic pets of all kinds in private captivity fail to provide adequate quality of life for those animals. Many people go bankrupt in their attempt to just keep these animals alive, and never even get to the point where they can provide their animals with room to roam, health care, or appropriate stimulation (pools for tigers and bears to swim in, logs and balls to chew, etc ).  Good intentions are not enough.

Please support legislation to ban private ownership and breeding of wild and exotic animals. More info below. And please do not support businesses and organizations that keep wild and exotic animals for exhibition or profit. In my view this includes everything from small makeshift roadside zoos to enormous mega corporate theme parks like SeaWorld and Animal Kingdom. Bring a healthy skepticism to any advertising and media that uses images of animals to sell you something – and go out of your way to let those corporations know that you are not fooled.



1) Support legislation to ban ownership of wild animals. Right now there are some important bills re. exotci animals in the US. Please support these bills by sending a note to your representative now:


A bill to ban the incomprehensibly cruel act of canned hunting:
H.R. 2210: Sportsmanship in Hunting Act of 2011

A bill prohibiting interstate commerce in monkeys, apes and other primates in the exotic “pet” trade.
S. 1324: Captive Primate Safety Act

A bill requiring state tiger registration  and tracking of remains to prevent the illegal trade of tigers and their parts.
S. 3061 Prevention of Illegal Trade in Tigers; Requirements for Possession (New Jersey)


In light of the horrifying events in Zanesville, Ohio on Oct 19, see the Humane Society’s call to action:
Ohio Ban Exotics Now


The following organizations track pending legislation–visit their sites to support current legislation and join their alert lists to be notified about upcoming legislation:
BORN FREE USA United with Animal Protection Institute
Humane Society of the United States
Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition

2) Do not visit ROADSIDE ZOOs or traveling animal displays.  Roadside zoos most often feature large wild animals kept in cages that are too small. The cages often have concrete floors,  don’t offer shelter from sun or rain, and are not well maintained–making them unsafe for the public. If you decide to visit a roadside zoo to see the conditions firsthand, take photographs and/or video, make notes. If you see an illegal activity involving captive wildlife including an animal in distress, please report this to authorities.

3) Do not swim with dolphins or visit water parks featuring whales, seals, dolphins or other performing animals.

4) Let your local ZOO know if you feel an enclosure is inadequate or that an animal is showing signs of distress. Read this  LEAFLET regarding zoos, and pass it on.

Consider not visiting zoos at all. Here is a compelling case made by a professor of psychology at the University of Washington:  ”I know many of you don’t want to hear this. I know many of you love zoos. You might take your children to zoos on a Sunday afternoon. The human-animal relationship is a beautiful and powerful one in human life. But would you take your children to gape at interesting-looking people in a jail”  read more Peter H. Kahn,

5) NEVER pay to have your photo taken with a tiger cub or any captive wild animal.  Individuals often believe they can support a tiger or even make a living for themselves by creating photo opportunities–where people have the chance to be photographed with a tiger  cub. This practice is very stressful for the cubs and many people will abandon or give away their cubs once the cubs are too large to be safely photographed with strangers. Many activists feel that if it were illegal to take photos of people with tiger cubs, the over population of captive bred tigers would drop immediately.

6) Make sure your children’s school does not hire individuals to bring captive wild animals to their school, this includes small mammals and reptiles.

7) Don’t adopt any kind of exotic animal or reptiles as a pet and Ask Your Local Pet Store To Consider Not Selling Wild Animals. Many pet stores sell a variety of wild animals. While some sell primates and some of the larger exotic mammals, most carry smaller creatures such as birds, reptiles and invertebrates. The conditions in most of these stores fail to address the animal’s biological and behavioural needs often resulting in physical debilitation and psychological disturbance.


Additional Reading:


A video from the Massachusetts School of Law


Captive white tiger in a cage in the United States


“We can learn as much about lions by studying them in their captivity as we can about men by studying them in their prison cells”  Virginia McKenna Born Free Founder & Trustee

Born Free Foundation: Keep Wildlife in the Wild


…we are responsible for the health and well-being, physiologically and psychologically, of the animals we keep captivity, whether they are captive bred or wild-caught, vertebrate or invertebrate… too often the animal’s most basic requirements are completely ignored, or the fact that reptiles and amphibians have very different needs and requirements than warm blooded animals conveniently overlooked.

There is only so much that a pretty back drop, rock, log, branch, cave, or a bag of litter or a stack of old newspapers can do to meet the needs of the herp’s essential nature.

Please consider this: do not get, nor agree to letting your child (or spouse or significant other) get, any animal that you are not willing to care for, provide for and support entirely for the rest of its natural life. Because all too often, that is exactly what you will be faced with…   Melissa Kaplan

article:  ”So you  think you want a reptile”


The wild animal pet trade is a massive, wasteful industry built on the exploitation of animals that are generally ill-suited as pets. While some are captive bred in sufficient numbers to satisfy demand at certain times, millions of wild animals (particularly reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates) are still removed from their natural habitats for the pet trade. These animals may be shipped around the world, enduring physical hardship, injury, disease and massive stress levels in the process. Mortality can be very high during and after transport. For example, experts estimate that 9 out of every 10 wild caught reptiles that make it to the consumer die within 12 months because of the effects of capture, transport and confinement. Do not support businesses involved in the wild animal pet trade.  –Zoocheck Canada

article:  Zoo Check  Exotic Pet Trade



Captive White Tiger and Orange Tiger in Cage


A documentary film about captive wild animals, people who keep tigers as pets, backyard tiger breeders, white tigers, the exotic pet trade, black market for tiger bone, pelts and meat, tiger conservation, tiger attacks, people mauled by tigers, bears, cougars and chimps, Siegfried and Roy, Tilly the Whale, Travis the chimp, Tatiana the tiger. Also concerning, human-animal relationships, animal law, and animal hoarding in the United States — as in the case of Terry Thompson and the exotic animals he freed in Zanesville, Ohio before killing himself.  Filmed on location in  Indiana, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, California, and Wisconsin. Director, Producer Camilla Calamandrei, Rolling River Films.