Incoming Garden Bros. Circus Show Would Violate Law, PETA Says

Ban on Possession of Wild Animals Means That Acts Must Be Elephant-Free, Says Group

For Immediate Release:
February 7, 2019

David Perle 202-483-7382

Searcy, Ark.

Citing a local ordinance making it illegal to keep or maintain wild animals, including elephants, PETA sent a letter today urging the city of Searcy to ensure that the scheduled performance on February 11 by Garden Bros. Circus—which has a history of animal-welfare violations and an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau—is elephant-free. So far, the city has declined to take action to uphold the law, which doesn’t allow for any exceptions.

“Elephants used by circuses have endured vicious beatings to break their spirits, but they’re still dangerous wild animals who sometimes run amok, leading to disastrous consequences,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on officials to enforce the city’s ordinance by barring elephant acts and urging members of the public to stay away from these cruel spectacles for both the animals’ sake 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 Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne follows.

February 7, 2019

The Honorable Kyle Osborne

Mayor of Searcy

Dear Mayor Osborne,

I’m writing on behalf of PETA to request again that the City of Searcy enforce its ordinance banning the possession of wild animals by requiring the notoriously cruel Garden Bros. Circus—which has an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau—to perform without elephants when it’s in town next week.

Starting in infancy, after being torn away from their mothers, elephants used in circuses undergo violent training sessions designed to break their free will, instill a fear of punishment, and elicit absolute compliance with their trainers. For example, this eyewitness footage shows a prominent circus trainer attacking elephants with a sharp, steel-tipped weapon called a bullhook and shocking them with an electric prod while they scream in pain.

Without the constant threat of physical punishment, elephants wouldn’t perform the dangerous and uncomfortable tricks that the circus forces them to—and the abuse of elephants and other animals at Garden Bros. Circus is well documented. In 2017, a circus whistleblower reported seeing elephants with blood dripping from behind their ears and witnessing a trainer “warm up” elephants by jabbing them with a bullhook or by shocking them. Another trainer with Garden Bros. was warned by federal officials for beating an elephant in the face with a bullhook.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited a circus exhibitor for repeatedly whipping a llama on stage at a Garden Bros. show when the animal refused to perform a trick. It also cited circus manager Zachary Garden for failing to treat bloody puncture wounds on a camel and for leaving a sheep to suffer instead of seeking prompt treatment for her fractured leg.

In Searcy, it’s illegal to keep or maintain wild animals, including elephants, without exception. Searcy Code of Ordinances § 6-6. PETA urges your city to show compassion for elephants and keep the public safe by barring Garden Bros. from using these animals and holding it accountable if it flouts the law. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Very truly yours,

Rachel Mathews, Esq.

Deputy Director | Captive Animal Law Enforcement

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