Elephants Forced to Give Illegal Rides at Circus in Reno; PETA Urges Feds to Strip License

For Immediate Release:
December 12, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382

Reno, Nev.

In violation of a Nevada state law explicitly forbidding direct contact between a dangerous wild animal and members of the public, Carson & Barnes Circus forced two elephants, Viola and Kelly, to give rides for three straight days during a Jordan World Circus event in March at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center. So this morning, PETA fired off a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the agency to strip Carson & Barnes of its federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) license, which it may do anytime the licensee violates state laws pertaining to animals.

Washoe County Regional Animal Services issued Jordan World Circus a warning for the violation following a complaint from PETA. Because the circus hasn’t held an AWA license since 2007, it partnered with Carson & Barnes to provide and handle the elephants, meaning the illegal act falls under Carson & Barnes’ license.

elephants dressed in costumes forced to give rides to humans at a circus provided by Carson & Barnes

Carson & Barnes elephants are forced to give rides at a Jordan World Circus event in Texas. Credit: PETA

“Carson & Barnes has shown just as much disregard for the law as it has for the well-being of the aging, ailing elephants it drags from town to town and forces to perform under threat of violence,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Welfare Debbie Metzler. “PETA urges the USDA to hold this seedy circus accountable and urges the public to steer clear of big-top bullies like Jordan World Circus.”

PETA has documented Viola’s suffering for decades. The elderly elephant has escaped from Carson & Barnes twice, in 2010 and 2014. In 2021, a PETA investigation revealed that Viola was being forced to perform grueling tricks seven days a week despite having chronically swollen feet and signs of other ailments impacting her rear legs. The group notes that foot problems and arthritis are painful and can be deadly to elephants, yet they’re common among captive elephants like Viola and Kelly, who are chained and forced to perform tricks and give rides.

Jordan World Circus is one of the last few remaining circuses in the U.S. that still forces elephants to perform. During the time that Jordan World Circus was licensed by the USDA, it repeatedly failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals as established in the AWA and was cited numerous times for inadequate and unsafe enclosures and for failing to provide animals with proper veterinary care and handling, nutritious food and clean water, shelter from the elements, and exercise.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, or Instagram.

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