5-Year-Old Witnesses Animal Abuse at Shrine Circus in Pittsburgh

Young Girl Sees Bullhook Used on Terrified Elephants

For Immediate Release:
May 15, 2014

Sophia Charchuk 202-483-7382

Pittsburgh, Pa. – Circuses that use animals are notorious for training and punishing elephants by striking and hooking them with bullhooks—weapons resembling fireplace pokers with a sharp metal hook on one end. While a Shrine circus performed in Pittsburgh at the beginning of April, 5-year-old Karina Findling and her mother, Natalie Fristick, saw two elephant handlers use bullhooks on three elephants, the same three animals who escaped and ran at large for nearly an hour at a different Shrine circus in March. These circuses contract with outside animal exhibitors, most of whom have a long history of violating the Animal Welfare Act.

“The elephants cry. [Handlers] make them do stupid tricks. They beat them, too,” Karina says in a video documenting the elephant beating. “Please don’t go to the circus. It’s a cruel, mean place. Don’t buy tickets.”

In the video, a handler offers the elephants water. While two of them lift and curl their trunks—a common circus trick—one, named Viola, goes for the water and is immediately struck with a bullhook. After she lifts her trunk as the other two elephants had done, the handler allows them to drink, but Viola backs away in fear because he’s still wielding his bullhook.

“What Karina and her mother witnessed goes on every day at circuses that use animals,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “The Shriners can put on highly entertaining shows without resorting to paying animal abusers who beat elephants.”

Karina received a Hero for Elephants Award, and PETA has submitted a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) about the evidence of abuse that Karina and her mother witnessed.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.


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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