- Associated Press - Monday, July 6, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia zoo used tiger cubs in photoshoots without properly feeding or vaccinating them, according to federal inspectors.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo in Kingwood took cubs from their mother at birth and displayed them behind the gift shop counter at two to three weeks old.

The zoo used then cubs for photoshoots at two-and-a-half weeks old, among other encounters with the public, without vaccinating them, according to the inspection report from last month.

“Cubs of this age that have not been adequately vaccinated do not have fully intact immune systems and are therefore susceptible to many infectious diseases,” the report states.

Inspectors said the colostrum supplement fed to the cubs for one day isn’t proven to provide immune protection. Cubs are also fed a formula.

It says the zoo adds meat to the formula at 14 to 16 weeks old. The industry standard is as early as two to three weeks, while gradually increasing the amount of meat fed to them until weaning.

“The facility’s current program for hand rearing tiger cubs is not adequate,” the report states.

Facility owner Bryan Hovatter said the zoo stopped using the cubs in photoshoots until they were vaccinated.

He said inspectors had concern over the supplement, but he said the rest of the regular diet is “perfect.”

The Humane Society of the United States used the citations to repeat a call for the USDA to ban using tiger cubs for photo opportunities at similar facilities.

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