Five Ponies Escape, One Hit by Car: Central Mall Asked to Ditch Animal Circuses

PETA Says Negligence Shows Need for Circus to Be Animal-Free This Weekend—for Everyone’s Sake

For Immediate Release:
March 13, 2020

David Perle 202-540-2194

Fort Smith, Ark.

After five ponies escaped from the Tarzan Zerbini Circus this morning—resulting in a car accident in which one of the ponies was involved—PETA fired off a letter this afternoon to the director of leasing for the company that owns Central Mall, which is hosting the circus, to ask that all remaining shows be performed without animals, something that is a national trend.

“Sensitive horses are easily frightened by loud noises, bright lights, and unfamiliar sights and smells—and that’s exactly what the Tarzan Zerbini Circus subjects them to, day after day,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on Central Mall to stop the circus from placing animals and spectators in danger.”

PETA contacted Fort Smith Animal Control, which has issued a warning to the circus, and is following up to ensure that the injured pony receives veterinary care. The extent of the injuries is unknown.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit

PETA’s letter concerning Central Mall follows.

March 13, 2020

Igal Nassim

Director of Leasing

Mason Asset Management

Dear Mr. Nassim,

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) regarding this morning’s escape of ponies from the Tarzan Zerbini Circus, which is performing at your property, Central Mall in Fort Smith, Arkansas. One animal was struck by a car and sustained injuries. In light of this appalling incident, PETA is urging you to take prompt action to protect animals by, at the very least, requiring that the circus not use them in its remaining performances.

Video footage shows the terrified ponies running through traffic at a busy intersection in the early morning darkness, endangering both themselves and unsuspecting drivers. One driver collided with an animal, hitting him or her hard enough to cause significant damage to the vehicle. The pony may have been seriously hurt—we don’t yet know the extent of this animal’s injuries. Local authorities are investigating and have already issued a warning to the circus.

This morning’s escape is hardly a surprise. Circuses risk animals’ lives when they set up beside busy city streets. Escapes are common and often deadly. In one incident, a zebra got loose on a highway, was chased for 40 minutes, and sustained horrific injuries to his legs that resulted in his death. In another, an elephant crushed a trainer, injured 13 other humans, and was gunned down in a city street. Likewise, Tarzan Zerbini has a history of failing to keep animals and the public safe, such as when a trainer was trampled to death as elephants were being loaded onto a trailer.

Horses are sensitive animals, and they’re naturally frightened by loud noises, bright lights, and unfamiliar sights and smells—but that’s what Tarzan Zerbini forces them to endure day after day. As today’s escape shows, this circus cannot ensure the safety of Fort Smith’s residents or the animals it forces to perform. In the interests of public safety and animal welfare, may I please hear from you that the circus’s remaining shows at Central Mall will be animal-free?

Very truly yours,

Rachel Mathews, Esq.

Deputy Director | Captive Animal Law Enforcement

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