Industry interests trumped elephant welfare when city leaders failed miserably to implement a new ordinance intended to protect animals in traveling shows in Sacramento. After the city informed Ringling that four lame elephants were not to be allowed to perform physically strenuous and painful tricks that would further aggravate their conditions, Ringling was allowed to bring in one of their paid relief veterinarians to overrule the decision.
According to Philip Ensley, D.V.M, a board-certified veterinarian who served as the associate veterinarian for the San Diego Zoological Society for twenty-nine years, Karen and Nicole, two of the elephants originally disqualified from grueling performances, have a long history of suffering from severe lameness and stiffness. Dr. Ensely spent over 1,300 hours reviewing 15 years worth medical records of elephants with Ringling and confirmed that Karen has long suffered from inflammation and “[s]evere lameness” as far back as 1996 and that Nicole suffered from stiffness, lameness, and swelling in her legs. Both of these elephants were observed limping out of boxcars in Sacramento.
Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company, has a history of refusing to cooperate with investigations and threatening to pull its ice shows out of cities proposing humane legislation or any enforcement. On Friday, Sacramento city officials caved in to the circus’ intimidation tactics instead of enforcing an ordinance that was unanimously passed by the city council, leaving the arthritic elephants to hobble through shows all weekend.