Suffering Elephant Should Be Removed From the Circus, Says PETA

Feds Asked to Investigate After Video Footage Reveals Apparent Lameness in Elephant Traveling With UniverSoul Circus

For Immediate Release:
July 31, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Kansas City, Mo

Based on a veterinarian’s assessment that an elephant traveling with UniverSoul Circus is suffering from apparently painful lameness likely caused by arthritis, PETA sent an urgent letter this morning asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate the circus—which is performing in Kansas City through August 3—and ensure that no injured or lame animal is forced to perform in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The veterinarian who reviewed video footage of a UniverSoul performance in Florissant, Mo., last week assessed that the elephant’s severely limited motion in her rear limbs is indicative of serious arthritic and degenerative joint disease. The exhibitors providing the elephant to UniverSoul, Jorge and Louann Barreda, have a history of AWA violations: In December, they were cited for failing to provide veterinary care to an elephant who had a swollen, oozing wound on her face. And just last week, PETA sent the USDA an urgent complaint regarding another elephant traveling with UniverSoul, who was apparently suffering from a large lump on her back.

“PETA’s motto says, in part, that ‘animals are not ours to use for entertainment,’ and these elephants’ suffering shows why,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “We’re calling on the authorities to make sure that UniverSoul Circus doesn’t illegally force ailing animals to perform—and asking anyone who cares about animals to refuse to buy a ticket to UniverSoul’s shows.”

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PETA’s letter to the USDA follows.


July 31, 2014


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


Via e-mail and UPS: [email protected]


Re: Urgent Request for Inspection of Lame Elephant Exhibited by Jorge and Louann Barreda (58-C-0490)


Dear Dr. Gibbens:

I am writing on behalf of my client, PETA, to follow up on our correspondence last week (complaint number W14-241-E) and to request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture urgently—and again—inspect the elephants exhibited by Jorge and Louann Barreda (58-C-0490) with the UniverSoul Circus (former lic. 57-C-0320) for apparent violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

An individual has just contacted PETA to report observing a lame African elephant who was exhibited at a UniverSoul performance at the Jamestown Mall in Florissant, Mo., on July 24, 2014. Dr. Philip K. Ensley, a veterinarian with decades of experience working with elephants, reviewed the video footage recorded by the individual and observed that the animal has “serious range of motion limitations” in her rear limbs. He further opined that the elephant likely has serious arthritis and degenerative joint disease.

This elephant appears to require veterinary care, in accordance with 9 C.F.R. § 2.40, and the Barredas must not 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 the animals exhibited by the Barredas and UniverSoul and ensure that no injured or lame animal is forced to perform in violation of the AWA. Please also examine the exhibitors’ veterinary records and ensure that the elephants are receiving adequate veterinary care, in accordance with 9 C.F.R. § 2.40. Furthermore, I urge you to hold all responsible parties accountable for any and all AWA violations. UniverSoul is scheduled to perform at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo., through August 3.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Very truly yours,

Brittany Peet

cc:  Dr. Denise Sofranko, Field Specialist for Elephants, USDA/APHIS/AC ([email protected])

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