The city of Detroit all but rolled out the red carpet for a British wildlife photographer to take a large tiger, two wolves and a bobcat to the hazardous ruins of the Packard Plant for a photo shoot last week.
Even the Detroit Police Department, which doesn’t have enough officers to respond timely to violent crimes, sent an on-duty officer to the east-side factory to ensure nothing went wrong.
And of course something did go wrong when the tiger wandered off and took refuge on a stairwell riddled with hazardous debris and graffiti. One urban explorer with no experience handling wildlife tried to scare the tiger down the steps with a weed whacker.
For reasons that remain unclear, Animal Control Director Harry Ward, who stirred controversy in June when he tried to seize dogs from a no-kill shelter, issued a film permit so David Yarrow could lug the caged animals to the Packard for a photo shoot. The permit required the animals to be in “the care of a trained and qualified animal attendant at all times, whose responsibility shall be to see that such animals are securely under restraint.”
The Detroit Film Office also approved the shoot.
“The company did provide adequate documentation in the form of veterinary inspection forms and current certificate of liability insurance,” Police Sgt. Michael Woody told us. “Ultimately, without any justification to deny said request, the DetroitFilm Office then approved the shoot.”
A police officer also was sent.
“DPD did provide an on-duty officer at the location for the purpose of visual presence and securing the outer perimeter of the shoot,” Woody said. “This is a normal practice and we would have done so on any film set or shoot.”
This all happened without the knowledge of the Packard Plant owner Fernando Palazuelo or his employees and security, said Kari Smith.
“Although the photography group may have had a permit from the city, they never had one from Arte Express Detroit, LLC, owners of the Packard Plant,” Kari Smith, director of development for the Packard Plant, said. “They also never told anyone on staff that any animals would be on site. We stopped it, we don’t condone it, and feel that it is abuse toward these animals.”
The Packard Plant is considered so hazardous that not even Detroit firefighters will go inside the crumbling buildings to extinguish fires.
Yarrow couldn’t be reached for comment.
Hey all. Update: This wasn’t my situation, it was a British photographer that brought these animals here. I got a call to help after it was already out of hand because I was close and have tools – no tiger experience. The order from the handler was to motivate him downstairs towards the handlers. He wasn’t having it. I don’t support wild animals loose in our city without permission and strict control. This had neither. #tigerwatch15
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.