The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has filed a formal complaint against notorious animal abuser Carson & Barnes Circus asserting violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). According to the USDA complaint and news reports, the circus allowed three elephants—Viola, Kelly, and Isa—to run amok for 45 minutes at a Royal Hanneford Circus performance in St. Charles, Missouri, last year. The animals reportedly became “stressed” after circus performers asked the approximately 8,000 audience members to create loud noises by, among other things, stomping on the metal bleachers. The circus’s actions put the public in danger and caused the animals to sustain abrasions and lacerations.
Just weeks later, the circus allowed members of the public to come into dangerous contact with the elephants. PETA had previously alerted the USDA to numerous eyewitness reports that Carson & Barnes handlers were striking the elephants with bullhooks—weapons that resemble a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end.
Carson & Barnes—which recently claimed the number three spot on PETA’s list of the Top Eight Worst Circuses in the U.S.—has been cited for more than 100 violations of the AWA, including for allowing a pygmy hippo named Katie and an elephant named Nina to languish for months from apparently untreated ailments. The inspection report indicates that both animals lost weight at an alarming rate until they died—Nina just months after the circus was cited for failing to provide her with adequate veterinary care.
Carson & Barnes was issued an official warning last year for denying animals adequate veterinary care, and in 2012, it was ordered to pay a $3,714 penalty for 10 animal-welfare violations. One of the citations was related to another escape by Viola in which she bolted from her handlers and ran directly past a line of people waiting to buy tickets, sending some running toward the parking lot. Viola injured her shoulder and broke her toenail when she slid in the mud and fell into a steep ravine. She was on the loose for approximately 30 minutes before being recaptured. Other citations include denying elephants adequate shelter and failing to keep facilities in good repair.
What You Can Do
Never buy a ticket to an animal circus, and spread the word to family and friends.