After Elephants Escape, PETA Calls On Ahmed Shriners to End Animal Circuses

Letter Cites History of Dangerous Incidents, Precedent of Los Angeles Shriners’ Animal-Free Carnival

For Immediate Release:
April 28, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Ironwood, Mich.

The latest dangerous elephant incident at a Shrine circus—in which three elephants who were being used for rides at the Moolah Shrine Circus in St. Charles, Mo., escaped last month and roamed around a parking lot for nearly an hour, damaging parked vehicles—has prompted PETA to urge the Ahmed Shrine Circus to prohibit cruel and dangerous animal acts in its show in Ironwood.

As PETA points out in a letter sent today to Ahmed Shrine Potentate Gordon Peterson, the incident in Missouri is hardly the first of its kind: In 2009, at least 15 children were injured when an elephant who was being used to give rides at Indianapolis’s Murat Shrine Circus knocked over a stairway, and in 2010, an elephant kicked a handler in Pennsylvania, throwing him approximately 20 feet and killing him. The Al Malaikah Shrine Temple in Los Angeles presented its April 2014 Spring Carnival without animals.

“It’s well established that elephants who are beaten into performing have been known to lash out—and when they do, the results can be deadly,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on the Ahmed Shrine Circus to stop using animals in its shows now, before another child is injured—or even killed.”

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PETA’s letter to Ahmed Shrine Potentate Gordon Peterson and Circus Chair Tom Hogan follows.


April 28, 2014


Potentate Gordon Peterson
Ahmed Shriners

Re:    Shrine Circus Elephant Escape and Continued Use of Animals


Dear Potentate Peterson:

On behalf of PETA and its more than 3 million members and supporters, I am writing to urge the Ahmed Shriners to make the compassionate and prudent decision to end the use of animals at Shrine circuses. Last month, three elephants rampaged after escaping from the elephant ride area at a Shrine circus in St. Charles, Mo. Fortunately, no children were injured, but they easily could have been. This is just the latest in a series of dangerous animal escapes and attacks at Shrine circuses. To name but a few incidents:

  • Last year, a tiger escaped at a Shrine circus in Salina, Kan., and was found by a circus attendee, who encountered the apex predator in a women’s bathroom.
  • An elephant killed a handler at a Shrine circus in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in 2010.
  • A tiger trainer received hospital treatment, including stitches, for injuries to his left forearm and leg inflicted by a tiger during a 2006 Shrine circus performance in Evansville, Ind.
  • An elephant trampled a trainer to death as animals were being loaded into a trailer following Shrine circus performances in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2005.

Experts agree that animals who are trained under the constant threat of physical punishment and deprived of adequate space and enrichment—as is the case for all elephants, tigers, and other wild animals who are forced to perform in circuses—are more prone to unpredictable and dangerous behavior. PETA’s factsheets pertaining to Shrine circuses, elephant incidents, and big-cat incidents detail the deplorable animal-care records of the exhibitors used by Shrine circuses and the dangerous incidents that have occurred involving animals used in circuses.

The Al Malaikah Shrine Circus recently announced that it will no longer use animals, and we urge the Ahmed Shriners to follow suit, given the animal-welfare problems and risks to public safety inherent in circuses that force animals to perform.

May I please hear from you that the Ahmed Shriners will commit to a policy prohibiting cruel and dangerous animal acts at its future circus shows? Thank you for your prompt attention to this serious matter.

Very truly yours,

Carney Anne Nasser, Esq.,Counsel
Captive Animal Law Enforcement


cc:     Tom Hogan, Circus Chair ([email protected])


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