Caught! Feds Warn Cole Bros. Circus Exhibitor Over Dog-Welfare Failures

Circus's Exhibitor Cited for Failing to Provide Adequate Veterinary Care and Other Violations, After PETA Complains

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

DeLand, Fla. – Following PETA’s filing of a formal complaint, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued an official warning to animal exhibitor Ernesto Fassio—who tours with DeLand-based Cole Bros. Circus—for failing to have a written program of veterinary care for the dogs he exhibits in the circus. Other violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act mentioned in the warning, which is now publicly available, include Fassio’s failure to notice a dog with an injured leg and two dogs with dental issues as well as his failure to house dogs properly.

“The dogs were forced to perform tricks for a noisy crowd, despite having apparently untreated medical conditions,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “The routine neglect of animals dragged from venue to venue for circus performances is one of many reasons why PETA’s motto reads, in part, that ‘animals are not ours to use for entertainment.'”

Fassio is far from the only Cole Bros. exhibitor with a record of animal-welfare violations. Elephants used by Cole Bros. are supplied by the notorious Carson & Barnes Circus, and the circus act includes elephant trainer Tim Frisco, who was caught on camera viciously beating terrified elephants with a bullhook—a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook on one end—and shocking them with electric prods. Cole Bros. paid a $15,000 penalty to the USDA to settle charges after PETA pointed out that two elephants were hundreds of pounds underweight. In 2011, Cole Bros. pleaded guilty to selling these elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act and paid a $150,000 penalty.

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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