PETA Urges Polk County to Inspect Wounded Baby Elephant at Ringling’s Florida Training Compound

Recent News Report Shows Baby Mike With Apparent Bullhook Wound, Says Veterinarian

For Immediate Release:
October 9, 2013

David Perle 202-483-7382  

Polk County, Fla. — Today, PETA sent an urgent letter to the Animal Control Unit of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office asking for an inspection of a baby elephant named Mike—who is barely 3 months old—who is being kept at Ringling Bros.’ compound in Polk County. As PETA points out in its letter, an October 4 news clip shows Mike with a wound that an independent veterinarian with more than 40 years’ experience working with elephants has identified as most likely a “hook boil”—an abscessed wound caused by a bullhook (a sharp metal-tipped weapon that resembles a fireplace poker). 

The apparent hook boil is consistent with photographs taken inside the Polk County facility by a veteran elephant handler with Ringling. The photographs, available here, reveal how baby elephants who have been prematurely torn away from their mothers are stretched out, slammed to the ground, gouged with bullhooks, and shocked with electric prods—all just to teach them the physically grueling and confusing tricks seen in a circus routine.

“Ringling ‘breaks’ and trains baby elephants by beating them into submission, and it seems that Mike has been no exception,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on local officials to make sure that an independent veterinarian examines baby Mike as soon as possible—and to hold Ringling accountable for any illegal cruelty to animals that the circus may have committed.”

For more information, please visit PETA’s blog.  

PETA’s letter to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office follows. 

October 10, 2013

Donna Seiler, Animal Control Supervisor
Mary Kirkland, Animal Control Investigator
Polk County Sheriff’s Office 

Via e-mail and UPS: [email protected]; [email protected] 

Dear Ms. Seiler and Ms. Kirkland:

I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to request, with all due respect, that you inspect a 3-month-old baby elephant named Mike at Ringling Bros.’ breeding and training compound, referred to as the “Center for Elephant Conservation” (CEC). An October 4 news clip features Mike with what appears to be an abscess near his left hip. An independent veterinarian with more than 40 years of experience working with exotic animals, including elephants, identified this wound as most likely a “hook boil”—an abscessed wound caused by a bullhook, which is an instrument that resembles a fireplace poker and is used to hurt and punish elephants. 

The use of bullhooks as well as of ropes, chains, and electric prods is common during Ringling’s baby elephant training: It had been documented in photographs and detailed in a declaration by a former Ringling trainer. Indeed, the head elephant trainer at the CEC has described photographs showing these devices being used on baby elephants as “classic pictures of professional elephant-training” in a Washington Post interview (see appendix, section B). Please investigate Mike’s apparent hook boil and hold Ringing accountable if you find that it was caused by a bullhook in violation of Florida’s cruelty-to-animals laws. Please ensure that inspectors from the Sheriff’s Office are accompanied by a knowledgeable and independent elephant expert who is not associated with zoos or circuses (see appendix, section D). Please also exercise your authority under Florida law to confiscate Mike—if you determine that he had been abused—as well as any other elephants, should you find that they are being subjected to cruelty. See generally, Deborah Nelson, “The Cruelest Show on Earth,” Mother Jones (Nov. – Dec. 2011) (Ex. 1). 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter and for everything that you do for animals. Please note that PETA stands ready to help in any way that it is able, including in your search for an independent expert and with placement of any confiscated animals.

Very truly yours, 

Delcianna Winders, Esq.Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement
PETA Foundation

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