Whistleblower Reports Beating, Deaths of Animals at Villa Park–Bound Circus

Manager Slapped With Multiple Animal Welfare Violations Based on PETA Complaint, Including Allowing Sheep to Endure Painful Fracture for Weeks

For Immediate Release:
May 23, 2013

David Perle 202-483-7382

Villa Park, Ill. — According to a whistleblower’s sworn affidavit, handlers with Piccadilly Circus, which is scheduled to perform in Villa Park next week, regularly beat animals who failed to perform stunts perfectly. The report was the basis for a PETA complaint submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the circus’s alleged habitual abuse of animals and systemic failure to provide veterinary care. A report just released by the USDA cites Piccadilly General Manager Zachary Garden with eight new violations of the Animal Welfare Act—most of which are based on PETA’s complaint. One of the violations involved allowing a sheep with a painfully broken leg to suffer without ever receiving treatment—while also putting her at risk of re-injury.

“Piccadilly Circus is a pit of abuse, neglect, and death for animals,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “Children naturally love animals, so the last place that parents and grandparents should take them to is the circus.”

The USDA also cited Garden for the following violations, among others:

  • Severely crowding animals to the point that they couldn’t even make normal postural adjustments or turn around and would have trouble lying down or accessing water
  • Transporting animals in reach of paint, chemicals, and other potential hazards
  • Keeping beef brisket intended to be fed to a tiger in a “dirty” cooler with no ice or freezer packs, resulting in a “foul odor”

Piccadilly has a long history of animal abuse and neglect. According to a 2012 letter from officials in Fort Wayne, Ind., a witness observed a handler who repeatedly struck an elephant with a bullhook—a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp steel hook on one end—on the trunk and face. This incident was confirmed in interviews with the handler, the circus manager, and the elephant’s owner, and the USDA issued an official warning over the matter.

For more information about acts of animal abuse committed by Piccadilly Circus, please see PETA’s factsheet.

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 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