Circus Inspection Information for Law Enforcement Officials

Being able to spot signs of abuse, illness, and improper safety procedures is crucial to protecting both animals and the public. Topics covered in the guide include recognizing lameness, physical abuse (including bullhook wounds that have been covered up), and abnormal types of behavior in elephants; how to inspect elephants’ feet; recognizing pressure wounds and other conditions caused by captivity; how to determine if elephants’ living conditions are adequate; common signs of contagious tuberculosis in elephants; and the importance of ensuring that law enforcement personnel have a contingency plan in case an elephant rampages.

PETA has developed a guide, to assist local authorities with inspecting elephants. The guide contains information on monitoring unloading and performances, checking for signs of illness and injury, looking for evidence of abuse and neglect, and reviewing basic husbandry. Complete the form below to order copies of the guide or review the links below.

With the help of tiger experts, PETA has also developed a guide to assist local authorities with inspecting tigers and other big cats. The guide contains information on monitoring performances, verifying access to adequate space and opportunities for legally required daily exercise, checking for signs of illness and injury, looking for evidence of abuse and neglect, and reviewing basic husbandry practices. Complete the form below to order copies of the guide, or review the links below.

PETA also offers a videotape that includes undercover footage of standard training practices by the circus industry. In the video, a circus trainer attacks elephants with a sharp, metal bullhook and instructs other trainers to inflict pain by sinking the hook into their flesh until the elephant screams. While trainers are careful to conceal these beatings from the public, authorities who closely monitor animals before, during, and after performances may observe abusive use of the bullhook and other mistreatment or find evidence of cruelty, such as puncture wounds.

Additionally, PETA maintains factsheets on numerous circuses that list their history of Animal Welfare Act violations as well as other problems. These factsheets may be helpful in highlighting areas of particular concern.

Because of heightened public awareness and evidence of routine mistreatment in circuses, local authorities across the country are giving greater scrutiny to circuses. As a result, enforcement agencies that monitor circuses commonly find violations of municipal codes and humane laws.

Be prepared. Browse the following pages for information regarding circus inspections:

PETA’s “Basic Tips Inspecting Elephants in Circuses” guide is specially written to help animal control officers, humane investigators, state wildlife agents, and other law enforcement officials know what to look for when inspecting circuses.

Fill out the form below to order a free copy—before the circus comes to town.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind