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Circus animals such as elephants and tigers are frequently mistreated. They are made to commit unnatural acts all for human enjoyment. They are kept in captivity just to be forced to do stunts and often they are mistreated.

Circuses: Three Rings of Abuse


Although some children dream of running away to join the circus, it is a safe bet that most animals forced to perform in circuses dream of running away from the circus. Colorful pageantry disguises the fact that animals used in circuses are captives who are forced, under threat of punishment, to perform confusing, uncomfortable, repetitious, and often-painful acts. Circuses would quickly lose their appeal if more people knew about the cruel methods used to train the animals; the cramped confinement, unacceptable travel conditions, and poor treatment that they endure; and what happens to them when they “retire.”

A Life Far Removed From Home
On its Web site, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus boasts that it “cross[es] the country 11 months out of the year, logging more than 25,000 miles.”(1) Because circuses are constantly traveling from city to city, access to basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care is often inadequate. The animals, most of whom are quite large and naturally active, are forced to spend most of their lives in the small barren cages used to transport them, where they have only enough room to stand and turn around. Most are allowed out of their cages only during the short periods when they must perform. Other animals, like elephants, are kept in leg shackles that only allow them to lift one foot at a time. The minimum requirements of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) are routinely ignored.
 

Climatically, the circus environment is quite different from the animals’ natural habitats, and temperature extremes cause misery and sometimes death. A lion cub named Clyde died in a sweltering boxcar as a Ringling Bros. train crossed the Mojave Desert during the middle of the day when temperatures exceeded 100F. Clyde’s caretaker told the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that his supervisors refused to stop the train, even when he warned them that the lions were in danger.(2) The King Royal Circus lost its license and paid a $200,000 fee after an elephant named Heather died in a trailer in an Albuquerque parking lot where temperatures reached 120F.(3) The Suarez Bros. Circus kept polar bears in hot, humid Puerto Rico in 8-foot-by-7-foot cages without air-conditioning or a regular chance to swim before U.S. officials finally ordered that the bears be confiscated and sent to a more suitable climate.(4) 

Veterinarians qualified to treat exotic animals aren’t usually present or available at circuses, and many animals have suffered and died as a result of a lack of proper medical attention. For instance, even though Kenny, a 2 1/2-year-old elephant, was obviously ill, he was forced to perform in two Ringling Bros. shows, entering the ring three times. He subsequently died later that evening.(5)
 

During the winter off-season, animals used in circuses may be kept in traveling crates or barn stalls; some are even kept in trucks. Such unrelieved physical confinement has very harmful physical and psychological effects on animals. These effects are often indicated by unnatural behaviors such as repeated head-bobbing, swaying, and pacing.(6) A study of circuses conducted by Animal Defenders International in the United Kingdom “found abnormal behaviors of this kind in all of the species observed.” Investigators witnessed elephants who were chained for 70 percent of the day, horses who were confined for 23 hours a day, and large cats who were kept in cages up to 99 percent of the time.(7)


Beaten Into Submission
Physical punishment has always been the standard training method for animals in circuses. It is standard practice to beat, shock, and whip animals to make them perform—over and over again—tricks that make no sense to them. The AWA does not prohibit the use of bullhooks, whips, electrical shock, or other devices used by circus trainers. Trainers drug some animals to make them “manageable” and remove the teeth and claws from others. 
 

Video taken during a PETA undercover investigation of Carson & Barnes Circus revealed Carson & Barnes’ animal care director, Tim Frisco, viciously attacking, yelling and cursing at, and shocking endangered Asian elephants. Frisco instructed other elephant trainers to beat the elephants with a bullhook as hard as they could and to sink the sharp metal bullhook into the animals’ flesh and twist it back and forth until they screamed in pain. The videotape also showed a handler using a blowtorch on an elephant’s skin to remove hair and chained elephants and caged bears exhibiting stereotypic behaviors caused by mental distress.
 

Clyde Beatty-Cole circus has been cited repeatedly by the USDA for violations of animal care. According to congressional testimony provided by former Beatty-Cole elephant keeper Tom Rider, “[I]n White Plains, N.Y., when Pete did not perform her act properly, she was taken to the tent and laid down, and five trainers beat her with bullhooks.”  Rider also told officials that “[a]fter my three years working with elephants in the circus, I can tell you that they live in confinement and they are beaten all the time when they don’t perform properly.”(8)
 

The lives of baboons, chimpanzees, and other primates used in circuses are a far cry from those of their wild relatives, who live in large, close-knit communities and travel together for miles each day through forests, savannahs, and hills. Primates are highly social, intelligent, and caring animals who suffer when deprived of companionship. Like all animals used in entertainment, primates do not perform unless they are forced to—often through intimidation, abuse, and solitary confinement. After watching video footage of baboons performing in a traveling circus called Baboon Lagoon, Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a research associate with the Institute of Primate Research in Kenya, said, “[T]raining most baboons to do tricks of the sort displayed is not trivial ... it is highly likely that it required considerable amounts of punishment and intimidation.”(9)
 

The tricks that animals are forced to perform—bears balancing on balls, apes riding motorcycles, elephants standing on two legs—are physically uncomfortable and behaviorally unnatural. The whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other tools used during circus acts are reminders that the animals are being forced to perform. These “performances” teach audiences nothing about how animals behave under natural circumstances.

Animals Rebel
These intelligent captives sometimes snap under the pressure of constant abuse; others make their feelings abundantly clear when they see a chance. Tyke, an African elephant with Circus International, ran amok in Hawaii, killing her trainer and injuring 13 others before police shot her to death.(10) Five days earlier, Elaine, another elephant with the same circus, pinned eight children and their parents under a fence that separated the first row of spectators from the circus rings.(11)

As Florida Officer Blaine Doyle, who shot 47 rounds into Janet, an elephant who ran amok with three children on her back at the Great American Circus in Palm Bay, noted, “I think these elephants are trying to tell us that zoos and circuses are not what God created them for ... but we have not been listening.”(12) Since 1990, PETA has documented 65 human deaths and more than 130 injuries attributable to captive elephant rampages. Please visit www.circuses.com/attacks-ele03.asp for more information.

What You Can Do
As more people become aware of the cruelty involved in forcing animals to perform, circuses that use animals are finding fewer places to set up their big tops. The use of animals in entertainment has already been restricted or banned in several U.S. localities—such as South Carolina and Orange County and Pasadena, California—as well as in cities around the world, like New Delhi, Belfast, and Rio de Janeiro. The council of the Chester-le-Street district in the U.K. banned events in which animals perform as “a relic of a bygone era.”(13)

Don’t patronize circuses that use animals. PETA can provide literature to pass out to patrons if the circus comes to your town. Find out about state and local animal protection laws, and report any possible violations to authorities. Contact PETA for information on ways to get an animal-display ban passed in your area.
 

Take your family to see only animal-free circuses, such as Cirque du Soleil or the Pickle Family

Ringling:
"We are proud of our USDA inspection reports."
Reality:
Ringling Bros.' USDA inspection reports are riddled with instances in which federal inspectors found that Ringling Bros. had failed to comply with minimum federal regulations, and the circus has been cited for causing animals unnecessary trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and discomfort, a failure to provide animals with veterinary care, a failure to provide animals exercise, a failure to provide sufficient space, as well as not keeping the proper veterinary records.

Ringling:
"None of our animals are taken from the wild."
Reality:
The Asian Elephant Regional Stud Book, the industry resource for information on elephant births, deaths, and captures, shows that the majority of Ringling's elephants were captured in the wild.

Ringling:
"Trainers teach animals routines that showcase their natural behaviors, beauty, and distinctive personalities."
Reality:
In nature, bears don't ride bicycles, elephants don't stand on their heads, and a tiger would never hop on his hind legs. To force wild animals to perform confusing acts, trainers use whips, muzzles, electric prods, and bullhooks. In their real homes, these animals would be free to raise their families, forage for food, and play together. Instead, the circus forces them to perform night after night, for 48 to 50 weeks every year. Between acts, elephants are kept chained and tigers are "stored" in cages with barely enough room to take one step. Ringling has also invented a "unicorn" by mutilating a baby goat--surgically moving his horns to the center of his forehead.

Ringling:
"Future generations will be able to experience the wonder ... of Asian elephants because of what we're doing today."
Reality:
Circuses have claimed for decades that exhibiting endangered Asian elephants will inspire their protection. Yet in 2000, poachers killed 60 free-roaming female elephants so that their babies could be collected and sold to the entertainment industry. The still-nursing elephants, all under the age of 3, refused to abandon their dead mothers, even attempting to suckle from their corpses.

Ringling:
"Our training methods are based on positive reinforcement in the form of food rewards and words of praise."
Reality:
Ringling has opposed proposed laws banning cruel training methods. In comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture dated April 17, 2000, Ringling opposed language in the agency’s "Draft Policy on Training and Handling of Potentially Dangerous Animals" that reads, "Hot shots, shocking collars, or shocking belts should not be used for training or to handle the animals during exhibition, and any such use will be closely scrutinized. An ankus may not be used in an abusive manner that causes wounds or other injuries."

Ringling:
"We fully cooperate with all U.S. Department of Agriculture investigations."
Reality:
According to an internal February 25, 1999, U.S. Department of Agriculture memo written by an inspector and detailing injuries found on two baby elephants during a February 9, 1999, inspection, "[Ringling veterinarian] Dr. Lindsay was very upset and asked repeatedly why we could not be more collegial and call him before we came. I explained to him that all our inspections are unannounced. ... All Ringling personnel were very reluctant to let us take pictures [of the calves’ rope lesions]. … [Ringling employee Jim Williams] proceeded to interrogate me. … He then began badgering me. … He then walked away in apparent disgust."

Ringling:
"Ringling Bros. has pioneered the use of a traveling perimeter fence within which our elephants can exercise and socialize."
Reality:
In 1993, Ringling Bros. helped defeat legislation in California that would have limited the number of hours per day that elephants could be chained. Ringling wrote, "Chaining is a safe and acceptable means of protecting both the elephants and the public." To read more about what's wrong with elephants in circuses,
click here.

Circus Criminals

Circuses routinely pick up transient workers on the road and are magnets for the criminal element, including child predators, violent convicts, and other unsavory characters. Contact PETA for documentation.

November 18, 2005: A volunteer clown for the Shriners was sentenced to four years in prison and eight years of extended supervision for using a computer to facilitate a sex crime. The man traveled from Kentucky to Wisconsin with the intent of having sex with a 14-year-old girl. The president of the Owensboro Shrine Clowns defended the man's character.

May 25, 2004: Thomas Allen Riccio, a circus clown who performs under the name “Spanky” with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was arrested in Fayetteville, N.C., and charged with 10 counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. Authorities found 2,000 pictures on Riccio’s computer, which was kept in his room on the circus train, of child pornography that included girls as young as five years old engaged in sexually explicit activity with adults.

February 26, 2004: Shortly after a show, a ringmaster with Circus Spectacular was arrested by police in St. Joseph, Mo., on a charge of fleeing from justice. The circus ringmaster was charged by Indiana authorities with first-degree child molestation.

January 1, 2003: A Big Apple Circus employee was arrested in New York and charged with rape and sodomy. The victim, an 18-year-old woman, stated that the circus employee covered her mouth, ripped off her clothing, and punched and choked her before raping her. The alleged attack occurred shortly after a circus performance.

October 25, 2002: According to the Associated Press, the former executive director of the Osman Temple Shrine Circus in Minnesota was found guilty of embezzling more than $300,000 from the organization. A jury found Robert L. Janecek guilty on 21 counts of mail fraud, four counts of tax evasion, three counts of failure to file tax returns, and one count of filing a false tax return.

September 26, 2002: According to The Salt Lake Tribune, a Ringling acrobat was arrested and jailed in Idaho on charges of sexual battery against a 16-year-old girl. The acrobat allegedly dragged the victim back into his sleeping quarters, slammed the door, and assaulted her. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service also ordered the acrobat to be held.

August 9, 2002: A Carson & Barnes truck carrying the circus’s two African elephants, Paula and Kristi, crashed in Rhinebeck, N.Y. The driver veered onto the right shoulder, which had a 4-foot drop-off, and the truck tipped onto its side. The road was closed for five hours while emergency workers used power tools to cut into the trailer, free the trapped elephants, and remove the wreckage. The elephants suffered minor injuries. The driver was charged with having an uninspected trailer and an insufficient logbook, as well as failure to keep right.

June 21, 2002: According to The Baltimore Sun, a UniverSoul Circus worker was arrested after he attacked and stabbed a fellow employee in the abdomen during an argument.

August 23, 2001: A Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus clown was found guilty on nine counts, including sodomy, sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child, for sexually abusing a teenage assistant. The boy testified that clown Christopher Bayer began sodomizing him in 1995, when he was 11 years old. One incident was captured by a surveillance camera.

March 1, 2001: A district magistrate in Pennsylvania found Bentley Bros. Circus owner Robert Moyer guilty of harassment after charges were filed against him on August 5, 2000. Moyer was fined $150 plus court costs.

December 5, 2000: An Alain Zerbini animal keeper was arrested in Florida and charged with attempted armed robbery of a store.

November 22, 2000: An elderly couple was killed in Brandon, Fla., when a circus tractor-trailer pulled in front of their pickup truck on the highway at a slow rate of speed. The driver for American Circus Corporation, a Cole Bros. Circus subsidiary, was jailed and charged with operating a commercial vehicle without the proper license and violation of the right of way.

November 10, 2000: A Ringling employee was arrested in Rosemont, Ill., after police identified him from a fingerprint left behind when he allegedly mugged an Ohio woman at knifepoint a month earlier. The circus worker, who had been convicted of aggravated burglary and drug abuse in 1989, was suspected of committing a string of recent armed muggings.

January 2, 2000: Texas authorities arrested ex-circus worker Tommy Lynn Sells for rape, the murder of two young girls, and slashing the throat of another. Sells, a suspected serial killer who has confessed to at least a dozen slayings across the country, was convicted and sentenced to death.

March 1999: An undercover video recorded the animal care director for Carson & Barnes Circus scolding elephant trainers for spending too much time smoking marijuana.

November 21, 1998: The Calgary Herald reported that the goat Ringling featured in 1980 as a “unicorn” was purchased from serial killer Leonard Thomas Lake. Lake abducted, tortured, raped, and murdered women before committing suicide when he was finally arrested in 1985. The “unicorn” was actually a mutilated goat whose horns had been manipulated to grow in the center of the animal’s forehead.

July 24, 1998: The Great Falls Police Protective Association in Montana sued Sterling & Reid for failing to pay the association $6,000 for sponsorship of the circus.

July 1998: Circus Gatti refused to pay a $10,620 balance owed to the city of Richmond, Calif., for a May 1998 circus show.

June 16, 1998: Cedarburg, Wis., officials canceled Liebel Family Circus minutes before the 3 p.m. showtime because the circus owner had refused to comply with a city code section that requires circuses to submit a list of employees for background checks. Police have at times discovered fugitives traveling with circuses, and the ordinance was enacted out of concern for the safety of residents and visitors.

March 17, 1998: The Mountain Xpress reported that a Ringling employee, who was on parole after serving seven years on a New York murder conviction, was arrested in connection with two break-ins and liquor theft at an Asheville, N.C., liquor store.

May 15, 1997: A transient who came to Omaha, Neb., with the Shrine Circus was convicted of second-degree murder. The victim’s partially nude, badly decomposed body was found on June 16, 1995. She had been beaten to death with a chunk of concrete.

April 13, 1997: A Ringling employee was arrested in Worcester, Mass., on a fugitive-from-justice warrant, which listed a charge of counterfeiting.

October 21, 1996: Authorities discovered more than 3 tons of cocaine hidden inside the tent posts of a traveling circus. A truck driver for the circus was arrested in connection with the haul.

May 1995: According to Society, “When asked about drug use amongst the crew, one [member of Circus Vargas’ permanent tent crew] responds mordaciously, ‘Does Howdy Doody have freckles?’”

November 19, 1994: Ringling’s vice president of animal care, Gunther Gebel-Williams, was arrested in St. Louis and charged with disturbing the peace. Gebel-Williams had screamed at a police officer and threatened the officer with the whip that he used on his tigers because officers were giving traffic tickets to circus customers.

October 19, 1994: A Ringling employee in Boston, Mass., was arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon when he stabbed a horse trainer in the stomach with a penknife. A fight had broken out when the employee had tried to get the horses to kick the trainer.

August 20, 1994: An autopsy of Allen Campbell, an elephant trainer with Hawthorn Corporation, found that he had cocaine and alcohol in his system after he was crushed to death by an elephant during a circus performance in Honolulu, Hawaii.

January 17, 1994: Two Ringling performers were arrested in Post Orange, Fla., and charged with disorderly intoxication. One of the men was also charged with resisting arrest with violence after he swung at the arresting officer and tried to push the patrol car into the officer.

August 8, 1993: A Tucson, Ariz., Shrine Circus clown was arrested on charges of molesting three girls, ages 6, 7, and 10, he met at the circus.

February 4, 1993: A Hawthorn employee, Bernhard Rosenquist, was charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery, and armed violence for allegedly stabbing a coworker. Rosenquist was also wanted by federal authorities as a probation violator and by the Lake County, Ill., authorities on burglary charges.

May 21, 1992: According to The Record, Richard Garden, who owned Toby Tyler Circus and United Funding, was “accused of cheating charities and deceiving donors across the country. ... United Funding was sued or banned in a dozen states for deceptive telephone pitches. ... Toby Tyler Circus was cited for safety violations that resulted in bleacher collapses in Middletown Township, Pa., and Greenport, N.Y., where the 70 injured included an infant who suffered a skull fracture.” Garden started the Sterling & Reid Bros. Circus in 1998.

November 1989: Former Ringling ringmaster Kristopher Antekeier revealed in his book Ringmaster that drug and alcohol abuse was a problem among Ringling employees. In fact, during his tour a worker was found dead in a railcar from a drug overdose. He had been dead for three days when a foul odor finally led to the discovery of his decomposing body.

For more information, contact:

PETA
501 Front St.
Norfolk, VA 23510
757-622-7382

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

USDA# 52-C-0137 (past # 58-C-0106), 8607 Westwood Center Dr., Vienna, VA 22182

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Ringling paid $20,000 to settle U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) charges of failing to provide veterinary care to a dying baby elephant. The USDA has also cited Ringling for failure to possess records of veterinary care, failure to provide animals with sufficient space, failure to provide animals with exercise, and endangering tigers who were nearly baked alive in a boxcar because of poor maintenance of their enclosures. The USDA has four open investigations into Ringling, for the death of a 2-year-old lion who is believed to have died from heatstroke, the death of an 8-month-old baby elephant who was destroyed when he fractured his hind legs falling from a circus pedestal, the abuse of an elephant who was videotaped being hit and jabbed with a bullhook, and the mishandling of two elephants who sustained injuries when they ran amok in Puerto Rico. In less than two years, two baby elephants died, a caged tiger was shot to death, a horse who was used despite a chronic medical condition died during Ringling’s traditional animal march, and a wild-caught sea lion was found dead in her transport container. Fifty-seven of the approximately 62 elephants owned by Ringling in 1990 were captured in the wild. At least 24 elephants have died since 1992. Contact PETA for documentation.

DEATHS September 12, 2005: PETA confirmed the death of an infant elephant, believed to be a few months old, named Bertha. The circus did not announce her birth or death.

August 31, 2005: An endangered Asian elephant named Gildah died. Gildah was captured in the wild and used in Siegfried & Roy’s casino act. She was kept in solitary confinement at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Feld Entertainment refused a USDA recommendation to conduct a necropsy on Gildah.

October 9, 2004: A 44-year-old endangered Asian elephant named Roma was euthanized because of osteoarthritis. The circus did not announce this death. A necropsy revealed that Roma had had tuberculosis.

August 5, 2004: An 8-month-old elephant named Riccardo was destroyed after suffering severe and irreparable fractures to both hind legs when he fell off a circus pedestal. Riccardo was undersized when he was born to Shirley, a Ringling elephant, in December 2003. Failing to wait until Shirley was 18 years old, when she would have been physically and emotionally ready to raise offspring, Ringling used Shirley for breeding when she was only 7 years old (see "Animal Care," December 5, 2003). Riccardo may have been afflicted with a bone disorder caused by malnourishment, since his mother was unable to nurse him.

July 13, 2004: According to an affidavit by former Ringling lion handler Frank Hagan, a 2-year-old lion named Clyde died while traveling through the intense heat of the Mojave Desert in a poorly ventilated boxcar without being checked or given water. The lion is believed to have died from heatstroke and dehydration.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals • 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510 757-622-7382 • PETA.org • Circuses.com Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Factsheet – Page 2 of 12 – Updated July 28, 2006

July 1, 2004: An endangered Asian elephant died because of an aortic aneurysm. The circus did not announce this death.

May 11, 2004: Two Ringling horses were struck by a freight train as they were being unloaded from the circus train near Dayton, Ohio. One horse died instantly, and the other was euthanized at the scene.

January 24, 2003: An endangered Asian elephant was euthanized because of osteoarthritis. The circus did not announce this death.

December 22, 2002: A 57-year-old endangered Asian elephant named King Tusk was euthanized because of osteoarthritis. Captivity-induced foot problems and arthritis are the leading reasons for euthanasia of captive elephants.

June 1, 2001: A 7-year-old endangered Bengal tiger named Jasmine was euthanized due to chronic renal disease. The circus did not announce this death.

May 25, 2001: A 34-year-old endangered Asian elephant named Birka stored at Ringling’s breeding compound was euthanized due to abdominal neoplasia. The circus did not announce this death.

April 30, 2001: An endangered Asian elephant died due to chronic osteoarthritis. Captivity-induced foot problems and arthritis are the leading reasons for euthanasia in captive elephants. The circus did not announce this death.

April 12, 2001: An endangered Asian elephant was euthanized due to chronic osteoarthritis. The circus did not announce this death.

March 7, 2001: An endangered Bengal tiger was euthanized because of tumors in her ear canals and sinuses. The circus did not announce this death.

August 5, 2000: An endangered Asian elephant was euthanized due to degenerative osteoarthritis. Captivity-induced foot problems and arthritis are the leading reasons for euthanizing captive elephants. The circus did not announce this death.

August 1, 2000: An endangered Bengal tiger was euthanized due to degenerative osteoarthritis. The circus did not announce this death.

October 28, 1999: A 52-year-old endangered Asian elephant named Teetchie was euthanized due to multiple joints affected by osteoarthritis and an M. tuberculosis infection of the lung. Captivity-induced foot problems and arthritis are the leading reasons for euthanasia in captive elephants. The circus did not announce this death.

July 26, 1999: Benjamin, a 4-year-old endangered baby elephant who had been removed from his mother before she could teach him to swim, drowned when he stepped into a pond while the circus was traveling through Texas. Benjamin drowned as he tried to move away from a trainer poking him with a bullhook. According to the Asian Elephant Studbook, published by the American Zoological and Aquarium Association, Benjamin was removed from his mother when he was only 1 year old.

February 22, 1999: A horse collapsed and died during Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s animal march to the Scope Convention Center in Norfolk, Virginia. A PETA videographer captured the horse’s collapse on film despite Ringling workers’ attempts to obstruct the camera. Although Ringling claims that a veterinarian is available to its animals 24 hours a day, there was no veterinarian on duty when the horse was in urgent need of medical care. According to the necropsy, Ringling was aware of this animal’s delicate condition yet kept him on the road anyway.

September 3, 1998: According to the Asian Elephant Studbook, published by the American Zoological and Aquarium Association, a 40-year-old elephant named Dolly died. Ringling did not announce this death.

August 31, 1998: A 12-year-old wild-caught sea lion named Gypsy was found dead in her transport container in Moline, Illinois. In the wild, sea lions can live to be 20 years old.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals • 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510 757-622-7382 • PETA.org • Circuses.com Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Factsheet – Page 3 of 12 – Updated July 28, 2006

January 24, 1998: A 3-year-old baby elephant named Kenny was forced to perform in two shows while the circus was in Jacksonville, Florida, despite obvious signs of illness. According to the circus’s animal care log, Kenny was "not eating or drinking," was "bleeding from his rectum … had a hard time standing, was very shaky, walked very slowly," and "passed a large amount of blood from his rectum." The log noted that at 11:30 p.m., "the elephant was dead."

January 7, 1998: Ringling trainer Graham Chipperfield shot a Bengal tiger named Arnie five times while he was locked in his cage, killing him in retaliation for an attack against Graham’s brother, Richard, during a photo shoot.

May 22, 1996: An elephant named Seetna who was euthanized due to prolonged dystocia (difficult labor). According to the Asian Elephant Studbook, published by the American Zoological and Aquarium Association, Seetna was 30 years old when she died. In elephants, dystocia often indicates that the fetus has died and is decomposing in the uterus. The circus did not announce this death.

1995: According to the Asian Elephant Studbook, published by the American Zoological and Aquarium Association, the following Ringling elephants died: 53-year-old Cita, 53-year-old Ranni, 45-year-old Rhani, and 34-year-old Karnaudi. The circus did not announce these deaths.

August 8, 1994: According to the Asian Elephant Studbook, published by the American Zoological and Aquarium Association, a 41-year-old elephant named Jenny died. Ringling did not announce this death.

1992: According to the Asian Elephant Studbook, published by the American Zoological and Aquarium Association, the following Ringling elephants died: a 26-year-old male named Petely, 50-year-old Nelly, and 50-year-old Mia.

VIOLATIONS OF STATE AND FEDERAL HUMANE LAWS February 15, 2006: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to provide veterinary care to a camel with two actively bleeding wounds.

January 6 & 17, 2006: The USDA cited Ringling for causing trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and unnecessary discomfort to two elephants, Rudy and Angelica, who sustained cuts and scrapes from arena seats after becoming startled by a barking dog while performing in Puerto Rico. Ringling was also cited for failure to provide a safety barrier between the elephants and the public.

October 5, 2005: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to maintain medical care records "for all the elephants, and Gunther in particular." There was no treatment plan for Gunther, who had been suffering from a lesion for at least five months.

September 7, 2005: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to dispose of expired and undated tuberculosis drugs. The inspector also indicated that Ringling transported an elephant named Siam from the Williston facility to the breeding compound. Ringling’s tuberculosis-infected elephants are kept at Williston. Siam tested positive for tuberculosis in 1999 (see "Elephant Tuberculosis," April 16, 2001).

September 6, 2005: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to provide shade to an elephant named Doc who was in an outdoor pen "that does not provide any shade or shelter" at Ringling’s breeding compound in Polk City, Florida.

January 6, 2005: A USDA inspector noted on an inspection report that elephants Gunther (age 3) and Angelica (age 7) had nail lesions. Captivity-induced foot problems and arthritis are the leading reasons for euthanasia of captive elephants.

July 13, 2004: The USDA launched a formal investigation into the death of a 2-year-old lion named Clyde. According to a former Ringling employee, Clyde died after traveling through the intense heat of the Mojave Desert in a poorly ventilated boxcar.

February 20, 2003: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to have a complete perimeter fence around dangerous animals at its Williston facility.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals • 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510 757-622-7382 • PETA.org • Circuses.com Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Factsheet – Page 4 of 12 – Updated July 28, 2006

December 16, 2002: The USDA cited Ringling for keeping alpacas and goats in areas with an accumulation of debris that included wood with sharp pointed nails sticking up.

December 5, 2002: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to have an appropriate perimeter fence around dangerous animals at its winter quarters.

November 7, 2002: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to have four elephants tested for tuberculosis and for failure to store food in a manner that protects it from contamination.

February 21, 2002: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to dispose of expired medication, for improper feeding, and for poor sanitation.

August 25, 2001: California humane officers charged Mark Oliver Gebel, son of animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams, with cruelty to animals for striking and wounding an endangered Asian elephant with a sharp metal bullhook. Gebel allegedly inflicted the injury when the elephant, named Asia, hesitated before entering the performance ring at the Compaq Center in San Jose, California.

August 24, 2001: Ringling was fined $200.00 by the city of San Jose, California, for allowing a yak to run at large and cause a public nuisance.

August 20, 2001: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to provide access for inspection of animals, records, and property at its retirement center.

May 3, 2001: The USDA cited Ringling for improper food storage.

February 20, 2001: The USDA cited Ringling for improper food storage.

September 7, 2000: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to provide adequate veterinary care. The inspector wrote, "There is no documentation maintained on elephants that have minor lesions, scars, or abrasions. … Records of medical treatment were not available on the camel that recently had both rear feet caught in a train track." Ringling was also cited for storing the animals’ food near toxic substances and failure to maintain transport enclosures that could not be properly cleaned and sanitized.

July 12, 2000: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to provide adequate care in transit, failure to provide drinking water, and failure to maintain transport enclosures. The inspector wrote, "[A]nimals must be visually observed at least every four hours. … Tiger transport vehicle is inaccessible as long as train is in motion. … [I]t is not clear if the opportunity to water the tigers every 12 hours is available. … Tiger transport design has allowed excessively high temperatures during routine transport. … Vent failure pushed these temperatures to a point of immediate danger to the animals."

July 5, 2000: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to maintain the structural strength of its tiger enclosures. Two tigers had injured themselves attempting to escape cages in which an excessive rise in temperature occurred when faulty vent doors blew shut. One tiger tore at the cage, tearing the track from the door and breaking off a tooth. A tiger in another enclosure suffered an injury above the eye caused by the same faulty vent-door problem.

June 16, 2000: USDA spokesperson Jim Rogers told the Austin American-Statesman that the agency has two investigations pending against Ringling Bros. for possible AWA violations.

February 22, 2000: Ringling was cited for failure to maintain a transport-shift cage for the tigers because it had a hole in the floor. The USDA also cited Ringling for failure to provide minimum space for the dogs and failure to identify dogs and cats with USDA tags.

November 9, 1999: The USDA cited Ringling (for the second time) for tiger cages in need of repair. The inspector noted an elephant with chronic arthritis was continuously housed on concrete instead of a more comfortable surface such as rubber for large hoofed animals. A female Asian elephant named Teetchie with a history of thin body condition and who tested positive for tuberculosis on September 11, 1999, was euthanized on October 28, 1999.

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August 23, 1999: According to an inspection conducted by South Bay Animal Control Services, seven Ringling elephants were found to have multiple lacerations. A zoo veterinarian who reviewed photographs of these and other injuries concluded, "The majority of the wounds documented in these photographs are fresh, actively draining puncture wounds caused by an ankus or hook."

May 27, 1999: The USDA cited Ringling for tiger cages in need of repair and locking mechanisms, as well as for failure to dispose of medications that had expired as far back as February 1996.

May 11, 1999: In a letter to Ringling Bros., USDA Deputy Administrator Ron DeHaven wrote, "We have completed our review of the lesions observed on two juvenile elephants, Doc and Angelica, during the inspection of the Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City, Fla., on February 9, 1999. ... [W]e find that the handling of these two elephants was not in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act regulations. ... We believe there is sufficient evidence to confirm the handling of these animals caused unnecessary trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and discomfort to these two elephants."

February 9, 1999: A USDA report indicated wounds on the baby elephants’ legs from separating them from their mothers. The report stated, "[T]here were large visible lesions on the rear legs of both Doc and Angelica (baby elephants). When questioned as to the cause of these lesions, it was stated by Mr. Jim Williams and Mr. Gary Jacobson that ‘these scars were caused by rope burns, resulting from the separation process from the mothers on January 6, 1999.’ Angelica’s lesion appeared as a pink linear scar, approximately 6" long and 1" wide on the right rear leg. The left rear leg also had a scar directly below the cloth leg tie. Both lesions appeared to have been treated with an iodine-based ointment. Angelica also had two linear healing scars on the back of the right hind leg. Doc had a pink scar on the right rear mid-leg area." (Both baby elephants were just under 2 years old when taken from their mothers. In the wild, female elephants remain with their mothers their entire lives and males for up to 15 years.) Tuberculosis tests for one elephant were not available for review. No treatment was instituted for another elephant with positive tuberculosis status.

December 9, 1998: A USDA inspector noted on an inspection report that an elephant with confirmed tuberculosis was euthanized. The inspector also noted that three elephants did not have adequate shade and that an elephant named Congo had intermittent lameness and what appeared to be hyperkeratosis (a skin condition).

October 7, 1998: A USDA inspection of Ringling’s elephants found three with lameness and one with lacerations on her forehead.

October 1, 1998: The USDA cited Ringling for having a damaged transport enclosure for the hippopotamus.

September 11, 1998: A USDA inspector noted on an inspection report that three elephants (32-year-old Lechamee, 28-year-old Sofie, and 42-year-old Mini) had suffered from arthritis for at least 12 years.

August 28, 1998: Ringling was charged by the USDA with AWA violations for the death of Kenny, a baby endangered Asian elephant forced to perform in Jacksonville, Florida, despite his being sick. The USDA charged the circus with failure to provide veterinary care to Kenny, and Ringling paid $20,000 to settle the case out of court.

June 9, 1998: Ringling was cited by the USDA for failure to provide records of veterinary care for an elephant named Seetna who was euthanized due to prolonged dystocia (difficult labor).

March 26, 1998: The USDA issued Ringling a "strong letter of warning" for the killing of Arnie, an endangered Bengal tiger. An angry trainer shot Arnie five times with a 12-gauge shotgun while he was locked in his cage.

September 5, 1997: The USDA cited Ringling (for the second time) for improper food storage. The inspector noted that a complaint about a lame elephant could not be verified because "the circus could not allow the elephants to move freely."

July 24, 1997: The USDA cited Ringling for unsanitary food storage.

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February 3, 1997: The circus was cited for failure to correct a previously identified violation of unsanitary food storage.

January 21, 1997: The USDA cited Ringling for inadequate storage of animals’ food.

December 20, 1996: The USDA cited Ringling for not providing environmental enrichment for primates. The USDA inspector stated, "There is no enhancement plan developed. The primates show signs of stereotypic behaviors (rocking, weaving, shaking, and cage-bar chewing and licking). All primates are housed singly. Cages have no enrichment." Ringling was also cited for not providing adequate space for a baboon. Additionally, the inspector cited Ringling for not providing adequate shelter for a hippo. He stated, "The length of the hippo is greater than the width of the hippo pool."

August 14, 1996: The USDA cited Ringling for not giving the elephants tetanus vaccinations, deworming, or fecal exams.

December 7, 1995: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to maintain tiger cages, failure to provide records of disposition for 10 elephants no longer on the premises, and improper food storage.

December 5, 1995: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to allow access to its property for an animal welfare inspection.

September 20, 1995: The USDA cited Ringling for not having a program of veterinary care. There was also no record of tetanus vaccinations.

June 8, 1995: The USDA cited Ringling for improper food storage.

February 14, 1995: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to have an exercise program for the animals, as well as for animal enclosures that were in need of repair.

November 10, 1994: The USDA observed that Ringling was storing animal food in an unsanitary manner.

October 18, 1994: During a routine USDA inspection, an elephant was being beaten by a Ringling trainer. The USDA inspector stated, "Upon entering facility, I heard yelling and the sound of someone hitting something. I observed an elephant trainer hitting an elephant with the wooden end of the handling tool to get it up." A USDA inspector cited Ringling for failure to handle animals in such a way that there is minimal risk of harm to the animal and the public. Additionally, the inspector reported, "Animals were also being housed by other species that interfere with their health and cause them discomfort."

January 21, 1994: A USDA inspector cited Ringling for electrical wires hanging loose inside a lion’s cage, causing the potential for injury or death.

December 29, 1993: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to provide minimum space for dogs and for inadequate lighting in the dog enclosure. The boxes were too small "for most dogs to stand, sit, lie, and turn about freely." Ringling was cited for failure to correct previously identified violations of not providing minimum space for bears, including one bear with rub marks; failure to repair the lion cages; and improper food storage.

December 14, 1993: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to provide bears with the minimum space required by the federal AWA. Ringling also failed to provide a program for exercise.

ANIMAL CARE April 12, 2006: PETA supplied the USDA with videotape showing elephant trainer Troy Metzler abusively hooking elephants, elephants kept on the road in spite of crippling arthritis, and elephants who were suffering from painful pressure wounds. Two elephant experts confirmed that Metzler’s acts of hooking are clear abuse and that Ringling’s lame elephants should not be traveling or performing.

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March 2, 2006: Professional dancer Jodey Eliseo, who toured with Ringling Bros. for two years in the 1980s, wrote to a Chicago alderman in support of pending legislation that would ban bullhooks. Eliseo wrote that she saw an elephant forced to perform with a huge infected boil that covered half her leg; Ringling handlers who beat an elephant for stumbling during a performance; teenage elephant Sophie covered with bullhook wounds from constant beatings; and a baby elephant who was severely beaten as punishment for running amok and smashing through a wall at a civic center.

November 16, 2005: According to the East Valley Tribune, "Reba and Sheena came [to Phoenix Zoo] from Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation after years of circus performing, zoo officials said. Negative reinforcement, such as hits and pokes, along with years of doing unnatural tricks, caused the elephants to become aggressive and dangerous. ... Reba [who once killed a circus trainer] pulled on her own nipples and Sheena was angry and withdrawn. All were threatening to zookeepers and dangerous to one another. ... ‘When you think about these animals, they had traumatic lives,’ [said Geoff Hall, Phoenix Zoo vice president of living collections]."

September 6, 2005: During an examination, the USDA confirmed that a 3-year-old elephant named Gunther, who toured with Ringling’s Home Edition (Gold Unit) had suffered from lameness.

August 25, 2004: According to the Oakland Tribune, Oakland Zoo elephant manager Colleen Kinzley described a video showing a Ringling handler hitting and jabbing an elephant as clear abuse. Kinzley also commented on video showing a chained elephant swaying neurotically, saying, "For such a young animal to be exhibiting that amount of abnormal behavior is just tragic."

July 31, 2004: According to an affidavit by former Ringling employee Frank Hagan, Ringling’s elephant trainer Troy Metzler, nicknamed "Captain Hook" by circus staff, was frequently observed abusively hooking elephants, including babies, with a metal-spiked bullhook.

December 5, 2003: An elephant named Shirley, who was bred by Ringling when she was only 7 years old, gave birth to an undersized calf. Elephants in the wild begin mating at age 18. Studies show that captive elephants who breed before age 12 have shorter lifespans.

December 12, 2003: Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, has refused repeated requests, including one from celebrity P!nk, to send its elephant Gildah to a sanctuary. Gildah was captured in the wild and used in Siegfried & Roy’s casino act. At age 56, Gildah continues to live a lonely life in solitary confinement at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

October 6, 2002: Veterinarian Gretchen Steininger, hired by Ringling to provide medical care and defend its use of animals, as reported in the Macomb Daily, while the circus was in Michigan, was fined $500 and reprimanded for negligence and incompetence by the Michigan Department of Consumer & Industry Services on June 22, 2002.

May 6, 2001: Ringling subjected a tiger in advanced stages of pregnancy to stressful conditions associated with transport. Four tiger cubs were born on the road while the circus was performing in Columbus, Ohio.

April 8, 2001: According to The New York Times, a Ringling spokesperson admitted that a trainer who had been videotaped tormenting elephants was still on elephant duty.

2001: Ringling’s red unit is leasing five elephants, including its star attraction, a male elephant named Bo, from the George Carden Circus. On May 1, 2001, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported that two George Carden Circus employees had pleaded guilty to cruelty to animal charges in provincial court in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and that each had been fined $200. The charges were brought after investigators found bears kept in filthy, undersized cages for 23 hours a day. The judge stated that he wished the legislation were stronger so that he could penalize the defendants more and suggested that people stay away from the circus.

June 13, 2000: According to congressional testimony provided by former Ringling Bros. barn man Tom Rider, "[Elephants] live in confinement, and they are beaten all the time when they don't perform properly. ... When I became disturbed about the treatment of the elephants, the continual beatings, including the baby Benjamin, I was told, ‘That’s discipline.’"

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May 22, 2000: A horse found suffering from life-threatening colic as the Ringling train was traveling through Pennsylvania had to wait three hours for treatment while employees searched for a large-animal veterinarian.

April 17, 2000: In comments submitted to the USDA, Ringling opposes language in the agency’s "Draft Policy on Training and Handling of Potentially Dangerous Animals" that reads, "Hot shots, shocking collars, or shocking belts should not be used for training or to handle the animals during exhibition, and any such use will be closely scrutinized. An ankus may not be used in an abusive manner that causes wounds or other injuries."

1992: Ringling disposed of five tigers who were of no use to the circus by giving them to New Jersey resident Joan Byron-Marasek, who owns a poorly maintained private menagerie. One of the Ringling tigers killed four other tigers at the facility. Byron-Marasek has been charged by the USDA with failing to provide adequate veterinary care and maintain programs of disease control and prevention for her tigers, and she was charged by state officials with overcrowded conditions.

DANGER April 13, 2005: Elephant handler David Mannes was airlifted to a medical center to treat a fractured pelvis and soft tissue wound to his arm after being knocked down and kicked by an elephant named Tova while feeding the elephants at Ringling’s breeding compound in Polk City, Florida.

June 13, 2000: Congressional testimony by Tom Rider, a former Ringling employee, identifies Ringling’s elephant Karen as a killer: "Although she was the most dangerous elephant in the group, she is the one they used in the three-ring adventure where the public is allowed to stand around the elephant with no safety net or other protection around her. Karen had a habit of knocking anyone who came into range, slamming them into the ground, yet they allowed her to have contact with the audience."

September 1999: Two frightened zebras who were tethered together escaped twice from their handler and ran toward a main street while being transferred from the arena between performances in San Jose, California.

November 1998: Three tigers escaped from their cage in a Chicago parking lot. A Ringling handler was hospitalized in serious condition with bite wounds over much of his body when he was attacked by one of the tigers.

September 30, 1995: A Ringling lion bit off the index finger of a 31-year-old woman attending the circus.

May 6, 1993: A Ringling elephant killed her trainer in Gainesville, Florida. The elephant knocked down the 51-year-old trainer and stepped on his chest.

IMPEDING INVESTIGATIONS August 24, 2004: The Associated Press reported that Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, refused two recent subpoenas from the USDA, requiring Feld to provide a video of the October 3, 2003, tiger attack of Roy Horn to aid in the agency’s investigation.

July 13, 2004: According to an affidavit by former Ringling lion handler Frank Hagan, employees who had knowledge of how a lion named Clyde died after traveling through the intense heat of the Mojave Desert in a poorly ventilated boxcar were instructed not to speak to USDA inspectors who were investigating the death. Ringling quickly had misters installed in the lions’ boxcar before USDA officials arrived.

March 26, 2001: An internal USDA memo stated, "This is a request to subpoena to compel testimony and provide documentation ... under the AWA. ... I have been involved in an investigation into allegations of elephant abuse and exhibiting elephants infected with TB by Ringling Brothers Circus. ... The investigation has been very frustrating in that Feld Entertainment has not been cooperative with allowing the USDA to review medical records on the elephants, and the key witnesses will not cooperate due to court settlements with Feld Entertainment that prevent them from discussing any circus issues with anyone."

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August 23, 1999: According to an incident report from the Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley, Ringling veterinarian Bill Lindsay and two other circus employees surrounded a humane investigator in a threatening manner and angrily confronted the investigator in an attempt to impede an investigation into bloody lacerations found on numerous elephants.

August 6, 1999: The USDA was forced to subpoena a necropsy report from Texas A&M University’s veterinary laboratory for Benjamin, a 4-year-old elephant who drowned, after Ringling ignored AWA requirements and two investigators’ July 28 requests for the documents.

February 25, 1999: According to internal USDA memos written by inspectors, detailing injuries found on two baby elephants during a February 9, 1999, inspection, "[Ringling veterinarian] Dr. Lindsay was very upset and asked repeatedly why we could not be more collegial and call him before we came. I explained to him that all our inspections are unannounced. ... All Ringling personnel were very reluctant to let us take pictures [of the calves’ rope lesions]." Ringling personnel were described as "badgering," "disgusted," "antagonistic," and "defensive" toward the inspectors.

ELEPHANT TUBERCULOSIS September 7, 2005: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to dispose of expired and undated tuberculosis drugs. The inspector also indicated that Ringling transported an elephant named Siam from the Williston facility to the breeding compound. Ringling’s tuberculosis-infected elephants are kept at Williston. Siam tested positive for tuberculosis in 1999 (see April 16, 2001).

October 9, 2004: A 44-year-old endangered Asian elephant named Roma was euthanized because of osteoarthritis. A necropsy revealed that Roma had tuberculosis.

November 7, 2002: The USDA cited Ringling for failure to have four elephants tested for tuberculosis. The inspector wrote, "TB is a disease that is dangerous to both man and animals. Animals must be tested in a timely manner for their protection as well as for their handlers."

August 30, 2001: According to an article on Salon.com titled, "The Greatest Vendetta on Earth," a 163-page sworn deposition given by Joel Kaplan, a private eye who had performed security and wire-tapping services for a Feld Entertainment subsidiary for 20 years, stated, "[Ringling] had some real problems with the elephants. … I was told [by the circus veterinarian] ... that about half of the elephants in each of the shows had tuberculosis and that the tuberculosis was an easily transmitted disease to individuals, to human beings. … I was asked by Chuck [Smith], through Kenneth [Feld], to find a physician who would test the people [in] the circus to see if they had tuberculosis but who would destroy the records and not turn them [in to] the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention]."

April 16, 2001: An affidavit from a veterinarian at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories stated that Ringling elephants Tectchie, Vance, Sabu, Mala, Dolly, Calcutta 2, and Siam tested positive for tuberculosis.

September 6, 2000: The USDA cited Ringling for failing to provide veterinary care to an elephant named Tillie who has been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Tillie, who is owned by Patricia Zerbini, is under the care of Ringling’s Williston facility and commingled with other elephants, which puts them at risk for infection or reinfection.

October 28, 1999: A 52-year-old endangered Asian elephant named Teetchie was euthanized due to multiple joints affected by osteoarthritis and an M. tuberculosis infection of the lung.

September 16, 1999: Ringling’s Williston, Fla., facility was quarantined by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services because of elephants’ having tuberculosis.

February 9, 1999: A USDA report indicated that tuberculosis tests for one elephant were not available for review and no treatment was instituted for another elephant with positive tuberculosis status.

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DECLINING POPULARITY April 15, 2005: The Philadelphia Daily News reported, "The circus elephants are coming to town next week, bringing an outmoded and problematic form of entertainment to all Philadelphians. Here's hoping that this is the last year such an antiquated spectacle is welcomed within our city limits."

March 29, 2005: The New York Times reported, "They are still the ones cracking whips as Bengal tigers (beautiful but a little fat) walk in circles, occasionally roar and run in and out of cages that look too small for them. Their trainer, Taba, did not seem worthy of them. But our consciousness has changed. We worry about how the animals are trained and treated."

February 14, 2005: The Star-Telegram reported, "[I]n less than two decades, the Canadian entertainment phenomenon [animal-free Cirque du Soleil] has reached levels of revenues that it took Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey more than 100 years to attain."

November 20, 2004: The Hamilton Spectator (Ontario, Canada) reported, "[Production manager Brian Newman] said the circus has lost some of its appeal, which may account for fair ticket sales at each of this weekend's five shows at Copps Coliseum. Organizers say none of the shows at the modified 4,000-seat venue are sold out. ... [B]ehind the scenes, allegations of animal cruelty involving its elephants [has] plagued Ringling Bros. ... A Spectator reporter's request to view the elephants was declined."

November 5, 2004: The Chicago-area Daily Herald reported, "Less enthralling, at least to those of us who go to the circus every year, are those acts that seem to appear in every edition of the circus: the high-wire acts, the marching elephants, the motorcyclists that zoom around the inside of a metal sphere. ... Rating: 1/2 out of four stars."

March 5, 2004: MasterCard International dropped its controversial sponsorship of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. MasterCard joins Visa and Sears, Roebuck and Co. to become the third national sponsor to end its Ringling promotions amid a flood of complaints.

October 26, 2003: The Capital-Journal reported, "[T]he Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which hadn't been to Topeka in 12 years, had ‘dismal numbers.’"

March 26, 2002: The New York Daily News reported, "I went to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden. ... The Garden was half full. ... The tigers moved with the half-speed of a Municipal Building bureaucrat and were more stoned than the bums you had to step over in Penn Station on the way into the Garden. ... [M]y little guy’s favorite attraction was the giant industrial dung vacuum."

August 17, 2001: According to The Wichita Eagle, Ringling failed to secure a date at the Kansas Coliseum because of concerns about its declining circus attendance.

November 3, 2000: The Chicago Sun-Times reported, "Founded in 1871, the ‘greatest show on earth’ has steep competition these days from artier circuses, such as Cirque du Soleil, that rely more on theatrics than on lions and tigers and bears, oh my. This may explain why the east and west wings of the venue were empty."

September 19, 2000: The Seattle Times reported, "More than anything, I noticed how many seats were empty, how The Greatest Show on Earth was more of a no-show here in Seattle than anything else."

May 21, 2000: The Dayton Daily News reported, "But the most amazing thing of all wasn’t even what was going on in the three rings [at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus]. It was to be seen elsewhere in the arena, up in the seats. In all the empty seats. … [T]he show we attended was nowhere close to sold out. In fact, the place was nearly empty."

November 19, 1999: The Chicago Tribune reported, "Last Thursday’s performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the 16,000-seat Allstate Arena was so small that two of the three rings were playing to rafts of empty seats. Attendees at several other first-week performances reported similarly small houses."

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November 8, 1999: The Chicago Sun-Times reported, "As master of ceremonies, baby-faced Johnathan Lee Iverson was a congenial [Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus] ringmaster who didn’t let on if the half-empty venue affected him."

September 17, 1999: The Indianapolis News reported, "Attendance continues to dwindle when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus comes to town."

CRIMINAL ACTIVITY April 19, 2005: According to the Centre Daily, Ringling animal trainer Sacha Houcke was charged with simple assault in University Park, Pennsylvania, after "two employees of the Bryce Jordan Center called police and reported witnessing Houcke choke his daughter, push her to the ground and punch her in the face while they were working with the circus horses." On May 25, 2005, Houcke entered a guilty plea to harassment and disorderly conduct citations and paid a $300 fine.

March 6, 2005: According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Ringling animal handler Bryan Phipps was arrested for a 2001 aggravated bank robbery while the circus was performing in Cincinnati, Ohio. Phipps, who was hired by the circus in December 2001, spent six years in Ohio prisons in the 1990s after being convicted of drug trafficking, carrying a concealed weapon, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping. Police officials stated that several other agencies had warrants for his arrest, including a felony drug possession charge.

May 24, 2004: Thomas Allen Riccio, a Ringling circus clown performing under the name "Spanky," was arrested in Fayetteville, N.C., and charged with 10 counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. Authorities allegedly found 2,000 pictures on Riccio’s computer, which was kept in his room on the circus train, of child pornography that depicted girls as young as 5 years old engaged in sexual activity with adults.

May 2, 2003: According to a report on CBS program 60 Minutes, suburban soccer mom and freelance journalist Jan Pottker filed a lawsuit against Ringling for fraud and conspiracy. Pottker charged that Ringling spent an estimated $3 million over an eight-year period in an attempt to sabotage her writing career after she wrote an unflattering article about the circus.

September 26, 2002: According to The Salt Lake Tribune, a Ringling acrobat was arrested and jailed in Idaho on charges of sexual battery against a 16-year-old girl. The acrobat allegedly dragged the victim back into his sleeping quarters, slammed the door, and assaulted her. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service also ordered the acrobat to be held.

November 10, 2000: A Ringling employee was arrested in Rosemont, Illinois, after police identified him from a fingerprint left behind when he allegedly mugged an Ohio woman at knifepoint a month earlier. The circus worker, who had been convicted of aggravated burglary and drug abuse in 1989, was suspected of committing a string of recent armed muggings.

November 21, 1998: The Calgary Herald reported that the goat Ringling featured in 1980 as a "unicorn" was purchased from serial killer Leonard Thomas Lake. Lake abducted, tortured, raped, and murdered women before committing suicide when he was finally arrested in 1985. The "unicorn" was actually a mutilated goat whose horns had been manipulated to grow in the center of the animal’s forehead.

March 17, 1998: The Mountain Xpress reported that a Ringling employee, who was on parole after serving seven years on a New York murder conviction, was arrested in connection with two break-ins and liquor theft at an Asheville, North Carolina, liquor store.

April 13, 1997: A Ringling employee was arrested in Worcester, Massachusetts, on a fugitive-from-justice warrant, which listed a charge of counterfeiting.

November 19, 1994: Ringling’s vice president of animal care Gunther Gebel-Williams, was arrested in St. Louis and charged with disturbing the peace. Gebel-Williams had screamed at a police officer and threatened the officer with the whip that he uses on his tigers because officers were giving traffic tickets to circus customers.

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October 19, 1994: A Ringling employee in Boston, Massachusetts, was arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon when he stabbed a horse trainer in the stomach with a penknife. A fight had broken out when the employee had tried to get the horses to kick the trainer.

April 19, 1994: A railroad official testified that a circus-train brake operator who helped conduct a safety inspection just before a deadly Ringling train derailment had failed a drug test after the wreck. A clown and an elephant trainer were killed in the crash.

January 17, 1994: Two Ringling performers were arrested in Post Orange, Florida, and charged with disorderly intoxication. One of the men was also charged with resisting arrest with violence after he swung at the arresting officer and tried to push the patrol car into the officer.

Fighting Injustice For Our Animal Friends