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

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

For Immediate Release:
April 3, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Indianapolis, Ind.

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 less than two weeks ago and roamed around a parking lot for nearly an hour, damaging parked vehicles—has prompted PETA to urge Indianapolis’ Murat Shrine Circus to prohibit cruel and dangerous animal acts in its shows.

As PETA points out in a letter sent today to Murat Shrine Potentate William Rasner, the incident in Missouri is hardly the first of its kind, as the Murat Shriners well know: In 2009, at least 15 children were injured when an elephant who was being used to give rides at the 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 Los Angeles Shriners have announced that their Spring Carnival this month will include no 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 Murat 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 Murat Shrine Potentate William Rasner follows.


April 3, 2014


Potentate William B. Rasner
Murat Shriners


Re:    Shrine Circus Elephant Escape and Continued Use of Animals


Dear Potentate Rasner:

On behalf of PETA and its more than 3 million members and supporters, I am writing to urge the Murat 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—including one at your very own circus in 2009, when an elephant used for rides injured 15 children after becoming spooked. To name but a few other 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 has announced that it will no longer use animals, and we urge the Murat 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 Murat 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.
Captive Animal Law Enforcement

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