Humane Society outraged after live animals used as prizes at Esplanade Mall

KENNER – A weekend carnival staged in the parking lot of the Esplanade Mall is drawing a strong rebuke from the Humane Society of Louisiana over accusations of animal cruelty.

The carnival, which was operated by the Slidell-based Mitchell Brothers Amusements over Easter weekend, offered live rabbits, iguanas, turtles, and goldfish as prizes, according to Humane Society executive director Jeff Dorson.

“People were shocked and angered by what they witnessed in the parking lot of Esplanade Mall,” Dorson said in a press release. “After viewing some of the photos, I went myself on Sunday to investigate and was able to confirm many of the reports.”

Dorson said he found 50 live iguanas in an upright container being used as prizes in one booth, and was told by the booth operator that the same enclosure had held twice as many animals at the start of the weekend.

An existing Jefferson Parish ordinance prohibits the giveaway of live animals in Jefferson Parish, but not in incorporated Kenner, a loophole Dorson said he hopes to correct immediately.

“We have written a letter to the Esplanade Mall outlining our concerns. We’re asking that they immediately cease and desist from holding any live animal giveaways in the future, apologize to the public who are rightfully upset and outraged and post their new policy on its website,” he said.

The families who did take home a rabbit, iguana, or turtle over the weekend may have a hard time caring for the animal as it grows.

Iguana owners, for example, “will now either be burdened with buying expensive supplies such as special diets, aquariums, heat lamps, cages, or heating pads which can run to hundreds of dollars to properly care for these new pets, or they will simply decide that they are not in a position to care for them,” Dorson said.

At that point, the best case scenario for those pets will be a trip to a shelter or a rescue group, Dorson said, but all too often these types of “prizes” end up abandoned in parks or wooded areas.

“Mistreating and giving away sentient, living animals – as if they were cheap toys – seems practically medieval in this day and age,” Dorson said. “Stuffed animals or any other number of prizes are sensible, easy substitutions for live animals in every one of these cases.”