Official Wants To Keep Track Of Tiger Mascots

MASSILLON, Ohio (AP) - The Massillon School District's superintendentwants officials to keep track of what happens to the footballteam's tiger cub mascot after its Friday nights on the sidelinesare over.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights group, last month asked Superintendent Al Hennon to stop using livetigers at Massillon Washington High School's football games.

Hennon rejected the idea, saying the mascot is treated well, buttold the Akron Beacon Journal that he thinks the district needs tomake sure the cubs continue to receive proper treatment after theyleave the school.

"We have to broaden our attention beyond the four to fivemonths we have tied up in these tigers," Hennon said.

Every fall, Massillon boosters lease a cub for the footballseason. The last nine were obtained from Stump Hill Farm in PerryTownship for about $1,000 each.

"Obie" reaches 50 to 75 pounds by the end of the season and isreturned to Stump Hill to be replaced the next year by another cub.

Booster club president Dale Walterhouse said their duty endswith the lease.

Boosters said they don't keep specific records that would verifywhere the Obies were born or where they go after the footballseason.

"I think we make sure it comes from a good place," said GeorgeMizer, a past booster club president and current caretaker of thisyear's Obie, a 15-week-old female Bengal named Asia. "We have nocontrol after that because it's not our tiger. We're justleasing."

Stump Hill Farm owners Cyndi and Lee Huntsman have refusedrequests from the Akron Beacon Journal to disclose locations of theformer Obies presumed to be alive.

The Huntsmans also refused to give details on the health andhistory of Khan, a 9-year-old male tiger that was the first StumpHill "Obie" and lives at the farm.

They said they are shielding the locations of the Obies out offear that PETA will harass the new owners.

"If the tigers go to good homes, they should prove it," PETArepresentative Amy Rhodes said.

Rhodes said PETA has not received any response from Hennon orMassillon Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli to its request thatMassillon stop using the cubs as mascots.

"I don't think most people understand that these animals canlater be defanged, declawed or killed for their skin," Rhodessaid.

Massillon Washington has one of the most respected footballprograms in the state. Because of the northeast Ohio city's lovefor the sport, a baby boy born in Massillon gets a football placedin his bassinet.

"If I heard that any of the Obies were being mistreated, itwould cause me concern and it would cause the community concern,"Hennon said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)