-- The most popular attraction at Dade City’s Wild Things weighs in at eight pounds and loves to make his voice heard. Tony the tiger is still a cub. He pounces around his enclosure playing with his toys and he loves his bottle.
Tony also likes to take a dip in his pool and anyone willing to pay a fee can swim with him.
"If you come and encounter little Tony now when he's a baby, you can come back in a few years when he is full grown and tell people, 'I swam with that guy,'” said Randy Stearns, an animal handler at Dade City’s Wild Things.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says cubs like Tony can have full contact with visitors until they reach 25 pounds.
"It's about 30 minutes and what you get to do is come out and play with the tiger cub," Stearns said. "You get to spend some time on the land playing with them and running around. Sometimes, he'll take his bottle so, you get to feed him. And, you actually get to get in the water with him."
Tony is not the only one who cools off in the pool. There is also Ally the alligator who hosts her own pool parties. Guests get to swim with Ally while her mouth is taped shut.
The experience is similar to the pool parties offered by Alligator Attraction in Johns Pass. In both instances, a handler is present.
"We make sure all of the things are in line, plus a keeper is always present within reach at all times,” said Kathy Stearns, who owns Dade City’s Wild Things. "So, it's perfectly safe and perfectly legal."
The FWC says it is investigating the gator swim at Dade City’s Wild Things just like it did at Alligator Attraction.
As for Tony the tiger, when he reaches 25 pounds he will have to be restrained when interacting with visitors according to FWC guidelines.
Dade City’s Wild Things charges $200 for a 30 minute tiger cub swim. Gator swims are a $100 for 20 minutes.source