Elephant Handler With Baltimore-Bound Circus Faces Cruelty-to-Animals Charge

UniverSoul Ranks Number Two on PETA's List of the Top Eight Worst Circuses in the U.S.

For Immediate Release:
May 21, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

Baltimore – A day under the big top is no fun for the animals used by UniverSoul Circus, which is scheduled to perform next week in Baltimore. The notoriously cruel outfit—whose elephant handler currently faces a cruelty charge in Georgia after he was allegedly caught inserting a bullhook (a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook on one end) into an elephant’s mouth—recently claimed the number two spot on PETA’s list of the Top Eight Worst Circuses in the U.S. All these circuses have high rates of cruelty to animals and public endangerment.

“Animals do not stand on their hind legs, balance on balls, or ride bicycles without the constant threat of violent punishment behind the scenes,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA encourages families to spare animals a lifetime of suffering by never purchasing a ticket to UniverSoul or any other circus that still subjects animals to the misery of life on the road.”

UniverSoul doesn’t have an exhibitor’s license, so it leases animals from outside exhibitors—almost all of whom have lengthy records of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act. In addition to the elephant exhibitor who was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals in Atlanta, UniverSoul works with big-cat exhibitor Mitchel Kalmanson, who admitted to keeping cats caged for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while on the road with UniverSoul. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also fined Kalmanson for two tiger escapes that occurred at UniverSoul.

The circuses rounding out the list by PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—include Ringling Bros., Carson & Barnes Circus, Cole Bros. Circus, Kelly Miller Circus, George Carden Circus International, Shrine circuses, and Jordan World Circus.

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