Michael Hackenberger, an animal wrangler and trainer whose screen credits include “Left Behind: The Movie,” “The Interview” and “George of the Jungle,” has been charged with five counts of animal cruelty, stemming from a training session in which he allegedly used a whip to hit a Siberian tiger, the Ontario, Canada, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Wednesday.
The charges against Hackenberger include one count each of causing an animal to be in distress by striking the animal with a whip handle; one charge of causing an animal to be in distress by repeatedly striking the animal with a whip; one charge of causing an animal to be in distress by striking the animal in the face with a whip; and one charge of causing an animal distress by pushing his thumb into the animal’s eye.
The Ontario SPCA opened its investigation after reviewing a video of Hackenberger training a male Siberian tiger named Uno. According to the SPCA, Hackenberger repeatedly struck Uno with a whip during the session.
“The videos of Mr. Hackenberger interacting with Uno, the Siberian tiger, provides a basis on which to lay charges,” Ontario SPCA senior inspector Jennifer Bluhm said. “Animal cruelty is a serious offense. Our investigative unit has spent significant time reviewing the facility and interviewing all involved. Our priority is always the health and welfare of the animals.”
The organization will perform another inspection of the Bowmanville Zoo and will monitor all of the animals at the zoo following the inspection.
Ingrid Newkirk, spokesman for PETA, which initially reported the abuse in December, hailed the SPCA’s actions in a statement Wednesday.
“We are pleased that criminal charges have been brought against Michael Hackenberger for the abuse of a tiger used in his exploitive zoo shows, and we hope that this case will result in an end to his torment of animals made to suffer for human entertainment,” Newkirk said.
Per his IMDb page, Hackenberger has served as a tiger wrangler for “The Interview,” an animal trainer on “George of the Jungle” and an animal wrangler on “Left Behind: The Movie.”