For decades, the Massillon Football Booster Club in Massillon, Ohio has bought - and then discarded - a new Bengal tiger cub every year.

The tigers, all nicknamed “Obie”, are bought by the booster club from Stump Hill Farms, a notoriously bad private breeder which has repeatedly failed to comply with minimum Animal Welfare Act requirements. 

After being taken from their mothers, the cubs are stored in a garage by a member of the booster club and forced to attend parades, school assemblies, and all of the school’s football games as a living mascot for Massillon's popular high school football team.

Sitting in a small cage on the sidelines, surrounded by bright lights and loud sounds, is incredibly stressful for a baby tiger. In an interview, one of Obie’s handlers admitted, “The band noise makes him nervous. It makes for a messy cage after the game.”

Then, after a single football season, the growing cubs are unceremoniously dumped in roadside zoos to be "replaced" with new tiger cubs the next year!

This "tradition" has led to the team buying – and discarding – 45 tigers over the past 20 years. 

Many of these former mascots end up in deplorable conditions.

Tiger Ridge Exotics, a facility which is noncompliant with animal welfare laws and currently risks having its animals seized by the state, has 4 former Obies, while other mascots are suspected to have been shot by law enforcement after their mentally unstable owner released them in the town of Zanesville, Ohio.

And because the USDA does not track the acquisition or sale of privately-owned tigers, it's impossible to know where most of the cubs ended up. Tigers which have been bred for the U.S. pet trade have ended up as living targets in canned trophy hunts, killed and eaten as "exotic meats", and slaughtered and sold into the illegal international wildlife trade. Any one of them could have been an "Obie."

Even if a former mascot is lucky enough to end up at a legitimate animal sanctuary,  the animal puts an unnecessary burden on the facility that rescued it. Annual food costs alone can add up to $10,000 for a single tiger. With an estimated 20-year lifespan, that’s $200,000 to feed one Obie. Over the 43-year tradition that Obie has been on the sidelines at Massillon home games, the discarded tigers have cost other facilities $8.6 million in food costs alone. These sanctuaries are already struggling to provide for the animals which need their help. They simply cannot afford the constant influx of cubs being dumped by the Massilon football program. 

This inhumane and irresponsible practice wastes valuable funds,  places an incredible burden on reputable animal sanctuaries, and supports a cruel industry which gives no thought to the welfare of animals – all for the sake of “tradition”.

Even worse, it teaches that animals – including endangered species like tigers - are disposable “props” that can be “thrown away” after a single football season.

The Columbus Zoo, Big Cat Rescue, and many other reputable organizations have expressed concern about this irresponsible practice. Even Massillon’s local newspaper has agreed: “This is one tradition that the Massillon Tiger football program can and should live without.”

Tigers are not disposable. Urge the Massillon Tigers to permanently bench this outdated, inhumane, and costly "tradition"!

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