An upcoming Furry convention in Florida will ban children from attending this year's event due to a new state law.
The Megaplex 2023 convention, scheduled for Sept. 15–17 in Orlando, caters to a subculture of people interested in anthropomorphic characters—animals with human characteristics.
Furry enthusiasts dress in animal costumes that reflect human characteristics or personas.
But sexual predators have taken advantage of the Furry craze because they know the fun-looking costumes and play-acting helps attract children, an expert told The Epoch Times.
And in 2021, a woman said she reported to Megaplex organizers that she was assaulted by a "convicted pedophile" at the event. Convention organizers later responded with an apology.
The bill, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, responded to parental concerns over live drag performances in front of children. The law prohibits minors from attending any "adult live performance."
Laws Protecting Children in FloridaSince signing the legislation, DeSantis has announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president in the 2024 race.
In his campaign, DeSantis frequently calls attention to his actions to strengthen parental rights laws in his state.
Those same laws, such as the Parental Rights in Education Act that he signed in 2022, have made him a target of the political Left.
That legislation, misleadingly dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" law, prevents teachers from initiating class discussions on sexual orientation and gender ideology with students in 3rd grade and younger.
The law doesn't prevent teachers from answering children's questions about LGBT topics and doesn't prevent children from talking about their LGBT loved ones.
Yet media misinformation has swirled about the measure, with many pundits and reporters claiming that saying the word "gay" has been outlawed in Florida, and can draw penalties.
Though the Furry trend has become popular in schools, adults have been participating in "Furry fandom" for years, attending conferences and congregating online and in person.
Megaplex issued a statement saying restricting minors from the event may only be temporary.
"Megaplex has welcomed younger fandom members and their families since its inception, and making this change was very difficult," an organizer wrote on Twitter.
"While this change impacts the 2023 convention, it is unsure if this will have to continue for future years. It is our hope that this change is temporary and that we can welcome members of all ages back next year," the statement continued.
Megaplex made no mention of the alleged 2021 assault on Twitter.
But the incident led the organization to issue an online apology and revise its convention rules to prohibit registered sex offenders from attending conventions.
The alleged female victim said she reported to Megaplex that a man attending the Furry event came into her convention hotel room she was sharing with friends. He held her arms and tried to force her onto the bed while others were present.
According to her Aug. 10 posts, the man continued to stalk and grab her after she told him to leave her alone.
Her posts the next day expressed her disappointment that convention organizers didn't get involved, telling her it was a police matter. She also posted information alleging the man who assaulted her was a "convicted pedo."
The woman said the event did nothing to stop the man from attending, even though organizers were warned about him beforehand.
The Sankaku article said the alleged assault was not surprising considering the Furry fandom "is infamously known to be overrun with grotesque fetishists, sexual deviants, and criminals."
The next day, Megaplex pledged to make changes.
"We want to also apologize for the way that we failed to act on attendees' reports of harassment and warnings before the convention," the statement on the organization's website reads.
Worries About FurriesJon Uhler, a 30-year veteran counselor, has worked with sex offenders in the Pennsylvania and South Carolina prison systems. He's been sounding the alarm that the Furry craze is the perfect cover for people seeking to groom children for sexual activity.
Through Uhler, The Epoch Times heard from a convicted pedophile, who told of how pedophiles have used the Furry trend to gain access to children.
But a terrifying thought for parents is that "very few pedophiles are caught," Uhler told The Epoch Times.
Only 1 in 1,000 are convicted, he said. Some take plea deals that involve erasing sexual offenses from their criminal history.
"The first thing that it tells me is how many minors they've been attracting to their activities—and how sexualized Furries are," Uhler said.
The Furry costume "fursuits," which cover the wearer from head to toe, are perfect for concealing one's identity at a gathering, he said.
"By virtue of the nature of Furries, we cannot protect kids," he said. "It's a sexually charged atmosphere" at their events.
He pointed out a Fur Con AI post showing a fox character holding a fake male appendage in view of convention goers. The post read: "God, I love being sexually deviant so much."
Even so, many Furry convention organizers continue to allow children.
The Furscience group tells parents that Furry conventions, "while flashy, are as safe as a street fair or carnival."
Furries commenting on Metroplex's decision to restrict children from the event gave mixed responses.
"To see how many comments there are of some being happy that it's an 18+ convention this year shows you how many of them only care for the adult side of the fandom, instead of the fandom as a whole," one Furry fan posted.
"This should've been the case in the first place, in my opinion. Appreciate the change, guys," posted another.
The Epoch Times reached out to Metroplex officials for comment but did not immediately receive a response.