Expert Report of Suffering Tigers at Ringling Bros. Prompts Appeal to Feds

Leading Animal Behaviorist Documents That Tigers Cowered in Fear Before Whip-Wielding Trainers: PETA Wants Federal Action

For Immediate Release:
September 28, 2016

David Perle 202-483-7382


Armed with a new report from recognized animal-behavior expert and wildlife consultant Jay Pratte, PETA has today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for apparent violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act after handlers were seen yelling at tigers, rattling the cages that confined them, and threatening them with goads and whips. Pratte—who has 25 years of experience training animals, including every member of the big-cat family—reports seeing tigers flinch and shrink back in fear every time whips were raised. He observed that during open houses, Ringling confined tigers to enclosures on hot concrete without shade or pools of water for prolonged periods. He also saw tigers who limped, had cracked footpads, and had sustained cuts and scrapes, likely from being unable to escape incompatible cagemates. Some tigers paced incessantly, a sign of psychological distress.

“It is my professional and expert opinion that the tigers I observed before and during the Ringling Bros. Red Unit shows are suffering from neglect as well as ongoing physical and psychological trauma and are not provided with … proper care,” writes Pratte. “If conditions cannot be improved … then the big cats would be better served by living in a certified or accredited institution.”

Wild animals used in circuses are often torn away from their mothers as babies and confined to barren cages and cramped boxcars when not performing. They are forced to do tricks under the threat of being whipped, beaten, or shocked with an electric prod and commonly suffer from chronic health problems as well as psychological disorders and die prematurely. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—is calling on Ringling to end all animal acts and retire the animals to accredited sanctuaries.

PETA’s letter to the USDA is available upon request. For more information, please visit

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