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September 23, 2014

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Regulators cite act featured at 2 Harrah’s casinos for animal abuses

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AP Photo/K.M. Cannon

Motorcyclists drive past Harrah’s casino in Laughlin on the final day of the River Run motorcycle gathering April 28, 2002.

Updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 | 2:07 p.m.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a circus act featured at two Harrah's casinos in Nevada has been treating its big cats poorly.

The department cited Dirk Arthur's Wild Magic show in December for declawing lions and tigers, keeping a snow leopard in a rusty cage and chaining a bobcat in a dangerous way. The USDA also found that the animals' cages were too small.

In January, the USDA issued a formal warning about the way the animals were living.

The show is featured in Harrah's casinos in Reno, in northern Nevada, and in Laughlin, outside of Las Vegas.

A spokesman for Caesars Entertainment Corp., which owns the casinos, said the company is taking the matter seriously.

"As soon as we were made aware of the issues, we informed Dirk Arthur he must address and correct them, which he has been actively and diligently doing," spokesman Gary Thompson said.

Failure to rectify the issues could result in a fine or criminal prosecution.

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is urging animal lovers to boycott the show and similar acts.

"These sorts of citations are the industry standard for people who profit from these shows," said Carney Anne Nasser, an attorney for the PETA Foundation. "Big cat exhibitors are notorious for simply warehousing tigers and other cats in transport cages that are barely bigger than their bodies, and totally disregarding the USDA requirements that they set up exercise areas."

The complaint noted that Dirk Arthur does not provide an area for the cats to exercise.

His show blends illusions and displays of wild animals. Tickets start at $35 for adults and $17 for children.

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