Tiger sanctuary in Riverside County reopening following animal abuse allegations

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Saturday, April 29, 2023
Tiger sanctuary in IE reopening following animal abuse allegations
A tiger sanctuary resort is opening its doors once again after a months-long closure. The reopening of Diamond Valley Lodge comes after a firestorm of animal abuse accusations from an animal rights group.

HEMET, Calif. (KABC) -- At Diamond Valley Lodge, two Bengal tigers are the main attraction for "Dinner with Tigers," which is billed as a unique and exotic dining experience.

"We're a tiger sanctuary that allows people to come and experience a unique event called 'Dinner with Tigers.' You actually dine about four feet away from our tigers," said wildlife director Rob Curtis. "It is a 100% safe experience."

Curtis is in charge of caring for the health and welfare of the exotic creatures.

The 140-acre property nestled in the hills of Hemet has not been without its share of trouble or controversy. Last September, the Fairview Fire came within striking distance of the sanctuary.

"The fire was scarily close. Luckily, we had a couple of retired fire captains, we have our own private fire truck here," Curtis said. "We had a whole brigade of volunteers in addition to the staff. They were able to fortify the property and protect it from the fire."

Then came the firestorm of accusations from an animal rights group which accused Diamond Valley Lodge of animal abuse.

"We've been down for a few months. We've actually been working with the county to help them understand our federal and state authority to operate," Curtis said.

The county of Riverside resolved the investigation, allowing the tiger sanctuary to move forward and reopen. It gives the public a chance to view the animals once again.

"We don't do any sort of tricks. We just let them have their natural behavior and be," Curtis said. "The audiences love it because they get to interact and connect with the tigers."

Curtis says he hopes people will walk away from the interaction with a better appreciation and understanding of the tigers, whose numbers are dwindling in the wild.

"It is a win because if we can hit you in the heart and make you love these animals, we can get you involved with wildlife conservation and preservation," Curtis said.