The life of a former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus tiger came to a sudden end on Wednesday.
Suzy, a 6-year-old Bengal tiger who used to perform with the Feld Entertainment circus before it closed, escaped her handler’s care during a transport from Florida to Tennessee.
A spokesman for the company, Stephen Payne, told PEOPLE that Suzy and 13 other tigers, still considered to be Feld Entertainment property, were being transported from Florida to Tennessee so they could eventually be sent to another circus in Germany.
“We do not know what occurred,” Payne responded when asked how Suzy escaped onto a portion of 1-75 near Henry County, Georgia.
The Henry Country Police Department responded to calls about the loose tiger and contacted animal experts for help, but ultimately decided to shoot and kill the animal after Suzy attacked a dog in a residential neighborhood near 1-75.
This grim end to Suzy’s short life has caused outrage among animal rights groups.
“This incident sadly illustrates just some of the immense risks and suffering caused by keeping exotic wild animals in captivity for entertainment. Big cats like tigers are not playthings, pets, or entertainers; they are dangerous wild animals with distinct welfare needs,” Elizabeth Hogan the U.S. Wildlife Campaign Manager for World Animal Protection said in a statement. “The use of wild animals for entertainment causes immense animal suffering at every stage, from capture from the wild, to handling, transport and breeding, to a lifetime in captivity. We must keep wild animals in the wild – and not in captivity for entertainment.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also expressed remorse not just over Suzy’s death, but her life in captivity. A staunch opposer to Feld Entertainment’s treatment of animals, the group did not hold back in their response.
“This isn’t the first big cat to die violently at the hands of Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company — others include a tiger who was fatally shot at close range while locked in a cage and a lion who baked to death in a hot boxcar. When Feld sentenced these tigers to a miserable life in a German circus, this tiger’s fate was sealed. She was gunned down on the streets of Atlanta, and PETA bets that she won’t be the last to die. In light of this tragedy, we are calling on the federal government to revoke Feld’s permit to export 14 other big cats,” PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders said in a statement.
PETA was one of several animal welfare groups to speak out against Feld Entertainment’s decision to export the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey circus animals to another circus in Germany, demanding that the animals be allowed to retire to animal sanctuaries where they would never have to perform again.