PETA Offers to Donate Disturbing Display Items to Circus World: Stacks of Government Records Documenting Hundreds of Animal Welfare Citations

Group Offers Years of Damning Federal Records That Show Neglect, Abuse, and Overall Mistreatment of Elephants, Tigers, and Other Animals Used in Circuses

For Immediate Release:
November 1, 2016

David Perle 202-483-7382

The now-defunct Cole Bros. Circus has donated 28 filing cabinets’ worth of records to Circus World’s collection of circus relics—and in response, PETA sent a letter to the Baraboo museum this morning offering to round out the collection with government documents that highlight the circus’s history of abusing animals and violating federal laws.

In the letter, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that Cole Bros. was cited by government inspectors for violating the Endangered Species Act and denying elephants adequate veterinary care, among other violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. PETA also offers to provide Circus World with materials related to other circuses, including Carson & Barnes Circus—the elephant exhibitor that the museum has hired for years—and its head trainer, whose vicious beatings of elephants have been documented.

“No exhibit of circus documents would be complete without records that show citations, fines, warnings, and other penalties for abusing animals,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA looks forward to contributing to Circus World’s true representation of what really happens in circuses that use animals.”

For more information, please visit

PETA’s letter to Circus World Executive Director Scott O’Donnell follows.

November 1, 2016

Scott O’Donnell

Executive Director

Circus World

Dear Mr. O’Donnell,

In light of donations made to you by the now-defunct Cole Bros. Circus—whose history of animal abuse and exploitation likely contributed to the circus’s “difficult seasons” of plummeting ticket sales—PETA would also like to make a sizable contribution to Circus World’s collection of circus relics: hundreds of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) incident reports and other government records documenting the neglect, abuse, and overall mistreatment of animals forced to perform in Cole Bros. Circus and other circuses.

Cole Bros.’ well-documented record of mistreating animals would make your memorabilia for that circus complete. It includes documents highlighting the USDA’s order for the circus to pay a $15,000 penalty to settle animal-welfare violations, including denying elephants adequate veterinary care and adequate shelter. We’ll include government records showing the circus’s guilty plea for violating the Endangered Species Act by selling elephants to a man who planned to use them for parties and rides and records showing that, as a result of this, Cole Bros. was placed on probation for four years and ordered to pay a $150,000 fine.

We’ll also donate records and supplementary materials from the elephant exhibitor that Circus World has hired for years: Carson & Barnes. Visitors could view inspection reports highlighting the circus’s gross neglect of an elephant named Nina, including failing to show that it provided Nina—who was so thin that her hip bones and shoulder blades were visible—with appropriate veterinary care while at Circus World. To accompany these records, you could loop this 2011 video showing one of the circus’s handlers beating her repeatedly in an attempt to get her to move. Nina has since died, and a necropsy showed what appeared to be tuberculosis lesions in her lungs—a disease that can spread between humans and elephants if they simply share the same airspace.

As a bonus for your visitors, we encourage you to display this video that shows Cole Bros.’ head trainer, Tim Frisco, attacking screaming elephants with a bullhook, shocking them with electric prods, and instructing others to sink bullhooks into the animals’ flesh and twist them until they scream in pain while cautioning that the beatings must be concealed from the public.

We can also provide decades’ worth of citations from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as well as exhibitors used by UniverSoul Circus and many others and are excited to contribute to Circus World’s true representation of what really happens in circuses that use animals.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk


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.

Get the Latest Tips—Right in Your Inbox
We’ll e-mail you weekly with the latest in vegan recipes, fashion, and more!

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.