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

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

For Immediate Release:
March 24, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Noblesville, IN

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., reportedly escaped on Saturday and roamed a parking lot for nearly an hour, damaging parked vehicles—has prompted PETA to urge Tampa, Fla.-based Shriners International to put an end to the cruel and dangerous practice of using animals in circuses once and for all.

As PETA points out in a letter sent today to Shriners International Imperial Potentate John A. Cinotto, Saturday’s incident is hardly the first of its kind: In 2010, an elephant kicked a handler, throwing him approximately 20 feet and killing him; and in 2009, at least 15 children were injured when an elephant who was being used to give rides at the Murat Shrine Circus in Indianapolis knocked over a stairway. The Los Angeles Shriners have announced that their Spring Carnival in April will include no animals.

“It’s a well-established fact 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 Shriners International to stop using animals in all its circuses now, before another child is injured—or even killed.”

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PETA’s letter to Shriners International Imperial Potentate John A. Cinotto follows.


March 24, 2014


John A. Cinotto
Imperial Potentate
Shriners International


Re:    Shrine Circus Elephant Escape and Continued Use of Animals


Dear Mr. Cinotto:

On behalf of PETA and its more than 3 million members and supporters, I am writing to urge Shriners International to make the compassionate and prudent decision to end the use of animals at Shrine circuses. This weekend, three elephants rampaged after escaping from the elephant ride area at the Moolah 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. The following are but a few examples:

  • Last year, a tiger escaped at the Isis Shrine Circus in Salina, Kan., and was found by a circus attendee, who came face to face with the apex predator in a women’s bathroom.
  • An elephant killed a handler at the Irem Shrine Circus in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in April 2010.
  • An elephant used for rides at the Murat Shrine Circus in Indianapolis, Ind., injured 15 children after becoming spooked in March 2009.

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 in the United States and the dangerous incidents that have occurred involving animals used in circuses.

The Al Malaikah Shrine Circus has reportedly just committed to end its use of animals, and we urge Shriners International to ensure that all Shrine circuses follow suit, given the inherent animal-welfare problems and risks to public safety at circuses that force animals to perform.

May I please hear from you that Shriners International will commit to a policy prohibiting cruel and dangerous animal acts at its members’ circuses? 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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