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Monday, May 24, 2010

WELLSVILLE OHIO

ACAB speaks up Group concerned about circus animal treatment

By JO ANN BOBBY-GILBERT (jgilbert@reviewonline.com)
POSTED: May 22, 2010

WELLSVILLE - When the circus comes to town, it is often the animal acts that draw the most attention from spectators, but they also garner attention from animal welfare groups, and this performance is no exception, with at least one group already voicing some concern.
Connie Carmichael, president of the Alley Cat Aid Brigade, said this week she had e-mailed the Wellsville Ministerial Association to ask that it reconsider sponsoring Monday's performance of the Kelly Miller Circus.
"It's so heartbreaking. I can't understand why we haven't progressed. There are more and more circuses without animals. That's the progressive thing," Carmichael said.
She said that while many will call animal welfare groups "extreme" in their stance against animal performances, "Nothing is more extreme than putting a tutu on an elephant or making monkeys ride bicycles. It's humiliating and not what they're supposed to be doing."
Ministerial Association President Pastor Troy Warner declined to comment.
According to a press release from Kelly Miller Circus, "The staff and management ... is deeply committed to the humane treatment of not only our animals, but of all animals and to the preservation of the Earth's endangered species."
Saying the circus does not tolerate cruelty in the training of its animals, the release went on to say, "It would be difficult, if not impossible, to conduct a performance schedule that spans eight months with exhibitions in over 200 communities if our animals are nervous or cowering in fear."
The circus' travel schedule is also dictated by its animals' needs, according to the release, which noted there is an average of 60 miles between towns, with travel only in the cool morning hours.
Once the circus arrives at its destination, custom-built enclosures are immediately assembled with canopies for shade, with animals unloaded as soon as the structures are completed. Except for times of severe weather, the animals don't spend more than two hours per day in the trucks.
They have constant access to food and water and are free to roam unchained in the enclosures when not working or performing, the release continued.
In addition to state, federal and local animal regulations, the circus is subject to the "court of public opinion," with the animals on display at all times, Kelly Miller officials said.
Carmichael had specific concerns about elephants performing in circuses saying they have a social system and, when removed from it, become depressed and anxious.
"They don't do these tricks naturally," she said.
The circus is a member of the Endangered Ark Foundation and its elephants participated in its breeding program, producing the first live birth of an Asian elephant in Oklahoma in 1998.
Training of Kelly Miller animals is based on methods thousands of years old and on positive reinforcement, according to the release, which noted, "Devices used in training are not weapons employed to inflict pain but tools that have been found to elicit instinctive responses from the animals."
As an example, it said the ankus, or bullhook, used for elephants re-creates the function of a trunk to guide them with just a tug or touch, imitating the way elephant mothers coax their young.
Saying they appreciate the public's concern for their animals, circus officials said they welcome everyone to see them on Monday.
Carmichael said that she will likely post her thoughts on her blog at dreamsoupvillage.blogspot.com, rather than distribute fliers at the event.

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