Based on eyewitness video footage of a bear urinating in apparent distress when pulled by a leash and forced to walk on his or her front legs during the February 18 performance of the Tangier Shrine Circus outside Omaha, Nebraska, PETA sent a letter this afternoon calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate the act, known as “Castle’s Bears,” for apparent violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
PETA is offering to arrange for the transfer of the bears used in the act to a reputable sanctuary. The group has also called on the Mid-America Center not to host exotic-animal acts in the future and urged the James Cristy Cole Circus, which produced the Tangier Shrine Circus, not to use exotic-animal acts ever again.
“Dragging sensitive bears from town to town and yanking them around for a circus show should have ended in the Dark Ages,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA stands ready to transport these bears to a reputable sanctuary, where they’d never be tormented again.”
PETA showed the eyewitness footage to a bear expert, who noted that the loud music and noisy crowd of a circus performance is inherently distressing to bears. Castle’s Bears also pulls and yanks on the lead and muzzle to force the animal to comply, which can cause long-term trauma to bears’ nerves, spines, and muscles.
PETA has rescued 57 bears over the past four years and arranged for their transport to reputable sanctuaries, where they have space to roam, have the opportunity to den, and are never forced to perform tricks.