Life of Pi Tiger's Owner Hit With Cruelty Charges

After PETA released video of Michael Hackenberger allegedly whipping tiger
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2016 6:03 AM CDT
his film image released by 20th Century Fox shows Suraj Sharma as Pi Patel in a scene from "Life of Pi."   (AP Photo/20th Century Fox)

(Newser) – The self-proclaimed oldest zoo in North America has provided animals to films starring names like Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, but perhaps no Bowmanville Zoo animal has entered the spotlight like its Bengal tiger, which starred in the Oscar-winning Life of Pi. Now the Canadian zoo finds itself thrust in the spotlight for a less spectacular reason: Owner Michael Hackenberger has been charged with five counts of animal cruelty some four months after PETA released a 90-second video that allegedly captured him whipping a male Siberian tiger. The video (warning: language) also shows Hackenberger swearing at the tiger, named Uno. NBC News reports the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it brought the charges after spending "significant time reviewing the facility and interviewing all involved."

The Ontario SPCA's statement outlines the charges, which include "one charge of causing an animal distress by pushing his thumb into the animal’s eye." Hackenberger maintains his innocence but resigned Wednesday as director "until such time as this legal matter is resolved," per the zoo's Facebook page. Though the Hollywood Reporter says the video seems to show the tiger being whipped 19 times, a 31-minute video the zoo made in the wake of the PETA video has Hackenberger saying the vicious whipping was of the air and ground, with the whip actually striking the tiger only three times; on one occasion he says the animal was moving to claw another trainer, per local media. The maximum penalty is a 2-year jail terms and $66,000 fine. (It's not the first set of animal cruelty allegations tied to the film.)

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