PETA Calls On USDA to Inspect Apparently Wounded Elephant Used by Ringling Bros.

Complaint Includes Photograph of Elephant With What Expert Says Is a Pressure Sore on Her Face

For Immediate Release:
July 25, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Orange County, Calif. – Today, following a report from a whistleblower who contacted PETA after observing an elephant with what appears to be a swollen lump on the right side of her face outside a Ringling performance just days ago in Ontario, PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders sent a letter urgingthe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)to inspect the elephants with Ringling’s Blue Unit immediately in order to determine the cause of the injury—likely being forced to lie down on hard surfaces—and whether veterinary care is being provided and also to ensurethat no injured or lame animal is being forced to perform in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. The unit is currently performing in Anaheim.

“Ringling’s flagrant disregard for even the minimal protections of the Animal Welfare Act caused the USDA to slap the circus with the largest fine in industry history in 2011,” Winders says. “But even shelling out $270,000 hasn’t made Ringling improve conditions for the animals. We’re urging the USDA to ensure that this elephant is not forced to perform and that she and all the animals are receiving needed veterinary care.”

For more information, please visit


PETA’s letter to the USDA follows.



July 25, 2014


Robert M. Gibbens, D.V.M.
Western Regional Director


Re:       Urgent Request for Inspection of Apparently Wounded Elephant With Ringling Bros.


Dear Dr. Gibbens:

I am writing on behalf of my client, PETA, to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture promptly inspect the Blue Unit of Feld Entertainment, Inc., dba “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus” (license no. 52-C-0137; “Ringling”) for apparent violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

An individual has just contacted PETA to report observing an elephant with a swollen lump on the right side of her face outside a Ringling performance in Ontario, Calif., on July 22, 2014 (photo attached). According to a captive-elephant specialist with decades of experience, the injury appears to be a pressure wound. These wounds on captive elephants typically result when they have very little mobility and are forced to lie down on hard surfaces. The wound may also be indicative of an underlying illness, according to the expert, who explains that sick elephants sometimes develop them “because when they are sick and/or tired they lie down for longer periods of time.”

This elephant appears to require veterinary care, in accordance with 9 C.F.R. § 2.40(b). Moreover, Ringling must not confine elephants on hard surfaces or force an apparently injured elephant to perform. See 9 C.F.R. § 2.131(b)(1) (“Handling of all animals shall be done as expeditiously and carefully as possible in a manner that does not cause trauma … behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort”); id. § 2.131(d)(1) (“Animals shall be exhibited only for periods of time and under conditions consistent with their good health and well-being”).

Please promptly inspect Ringling’s Blue Unit and ensure that no injured or lame animal is forced to perform in violation of the AWA. Please also examine Ringling’s veterinary records and ensure that the elephants are receiving adequate veterinary care, in accordance with 9 C.F.R. § 2.40(b)(2). Furthermore, I urge you to hold Ringling accountable for any and all AWA violations. Ringling’s Blue Unit is scheduled to perform at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., through August 3.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Very truly yours,

Delcianna Winders, Esq.
Deputy General Counsel, Captive Animal Law Enforcement

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind