Incoming Garden Bros. Circus Show Violates Law, PETA Says

Ban on Possession of Dangerous Animals Means Elephant-Free Show Is Required of Repeat Offender, Says Group

For Immediate Release:
May 14, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Saginaw, Mich.

Citing a local ordinance making it illegal to possess dangerous wild animals, including elephants, PETA sent a letter today urging the Village of Birch Run to require Garden Bros. Circus—which has a history of animal-welfare violations and an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau—to perform without elephants at its scheduled show on May 17. The village manager and chief of police have previously declined to take any action, claiming—without legal basis—that the ordinance applies only to residents.

“Elephants used by circuses have endured vicious beatings to break their spirits, but they’re still dangerous wild animals who sometimes run amok with disastrous consequences,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on officials to enforce the town’s ordinance by barring elephant acts and urges members of the public to stay away from these cruel spectacles for the animals’ and their own safety.”

PETA’s motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment.” For more information, please visit

PETA’s letter to Birch Run Village Manager Paul Moore follows.

May 14, 2018

Paul Moore

Village Manager, Village of Birch Run

Dear Mr. Moore,

I’m writing on behalf of PETA to again request that the Village of Birch Run enforce its ordinance banning the possession of wild animals by requiring that the notoriously cruel Garden Bros. Circus perform without elephants when it’s in town this week.

Starting in infancy, after being torn away from their mothers, elephants used in circuses undergo violent training sessions. For example, the head trainer at Carson & Barnes Circus, the outfit that leases elephant acts to Garden Bros., was filmed attacking elephants with a weapon called a bullhook and shocking them with an electric prod while they screamed during a training session.

But no amount of training can overcome the natural instincts of a sensitive, multiton wild animal. Dangerous interactions with captive elephants have resulted in dozens of human deaths or catastrophic injuries—including amputations, broken bones, crushed pelvises, collapsed and punctured lungs, degloving injuries, head wounds, and brain injuries. There is no way to predict which elephant will lash out and when.

The elephants used by Garden Bros, Isa and Viola, have made this clear. Isa was filmed being beaten back by handlers when they lost control of her at a circus venue, and once escaped from a circus and remained at large for weeks before being recaptured. Viola once ran off after being spooked by a rabbit and fell into a ravine. Both elephants were distressed by audience noise and escaped from a circus in 2014. They ran amok for nearly an hour, injuring themselves and causing damage to the venue and its guests’ cars in the parking lot.

Village of Birch Run Code § 90.03(c) makes it illegal, without exception, to harbor an animal who “constitutes a danger to human life, physical well being or property, including … elephants.” Yet you say the Village will not enforce the ban because, in your opinion, it should apply only to residents. By permitting an out-of-town circus—which the Better Business Bureau has warned has an “F” rating—to flout the law, you are allowing the community to be put at risk and doing a disservice to the elephants.

PETA urges Birch Run to join the growing list of towns that have enforced their own public safety ordinances by barring Garden Bros. from using elephants—including Little Falls, Minnesota; Rio Rancho, New Mexico; Norfolk, Virginia; and more. Thank for your time and consideration.

Very truly yours,

Rachel Mathews, Esq.

Deputy Director | Captive Animal Law Enforcement

cc:        Jason Leidel, Chief of Police, Village of Birch Run


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