D.C. Mom Sues UniverSoul Circus Over False Animal-Welfare Claims

PETA Foundation Attorneys File Class Action Lawsuit; Others Invited to Join

For Immediate Release:
August 11, 2015

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Washington – On behalf of Washington resident Melanie Sloan and others, PETA Foundation lawyers filed a lawsuit today in Superior Court of the District of Columbia against UniverSoul Circus alleging a campaign of deceit aimed at hoodwinking compassionate people, who want to do nothing of the kind, into supporting and perpetuating the abuse of animals.

The lawsuit details how Sloan—a legal and communications professional and longtime supporter of animal rights—purchased UniverSoul tickets for herself and her daughter on the basis of dishonest information on the circus’s website. But she discovered that UniverSoul used animals provided by exhibitors with long histories of federal Animal Welfare Act violations, so she and her daughter stayed home on the day of the show. She is now suing UniverSoul on behalf of anyone who bought tickets to the D.C.-area shows as a result of misleading information provided by the circus.

“UniverSoul knows that kind people like Ms. Sloan will not buy tickets to circuses that mistreat animals, so it deliberately promotes itself as something it is not: a champion of animal rights,” says Martina Bernstein, PETA Foundation’s director of litigation. “PETA is calling for UniverSoul to make good on its empty animal-welfare claims and end the use of tormented wild animals in its shows.”

Sloan stated, “As soon as I learned UniverSoul mistreats animals, I cancelled my plans to attend the circus. I can’t teach my daughter about the importance of treating animals humanely, but then take her to a show where they are abused.”

On its website, UniverSoul proclaims that none of its animal suppliers has ever been cited for animal abuse while performing with the circus, but PETA has documented that many of them have been cited by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors while on tour with UniverSoul. For example, Jorge and Louann Barreda, who have supplied elephants to UniverSoul, have been cited for failing to maintain a program of adequate foot care for elephants. (Foot problems are one of the leading reasons why captive elephants are euthanized.) And notorious big-cat exhibitor Mitchel Kalmanson has been repeatedly cited for keeping big cats in cramped transport cages and not letting them out to stretch their legs. One citation was for confining the animals that way for 24 hours a day for at least four to seven weeks at a time. Kalmanson has also been cited for failing to provide animals with veterinary care—including a limping tiger whose ailment, inspectors noticed, had gone “unrecognized and undiagnosed”—as well as for keeping a chain fastened around a tiger’s neck, causing risk of “injury or strangulation.”

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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