Circus pays fine after allegedly failing to properly care for elephants, tigers
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
BY KAREN SUDOL
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
GARFIELD — Cole Bros. Circus may be coming to town, but with $15,000 less in its pockets after agreeing to pay a fine in connection with allegations that it failed to properly care for elephants and tigers.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote letters of complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2006 and 2007 claiming two female Asian elephants were hundreds of pounds underweight and deprived of adequate veterinary care. The organization also said the elephants, Tina and Jewel, were sent to an unlicensed exhibitor who has a history of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act.
In 2009, the USDA removed Jewel from her owner – which was not the circus at the time, said Renee Storey, vice president of administration for the Florida-based circus in operation since 1884. The owner then voluntarily relinquished Tina, she said. Both elderly pachyderms were relocated to the Los Angeles Zoo, where they still reside.
A 2011 complaint was filed by the USDA against the circus, its chief executive officer and the exhibitor, who had a 2006 lease-to-own agreement with the circus for both elephants. Among the allegations was a failure to: handle elephants and tigers as carefully as possible and house the elephants in an adequate facility. The exhibitor was ultimately dismissed from the complaint.
“It’s important that the USDA sends a clear message to all exhibitors that violating the Animal Welfare Act will result in enforcement action and justice will be sought for animals who are abused and neglected by circuses who force them to perform,” said Carney Anne Chester, an attorney with the PETA Foundation.
The circus agreed to pay the penalty in a settlement that didn’t find that Cole Bros. Circus violated the Animal Welfare Act, Storey said. Never in its history has the circus been found to have violated the act, she said.
“There is a great deal of misinformation circulating,” she said. “For anyone who takes a look at the allegations, our response was quite clear. The circus was not in violation of anything that was alleged in the complaint. We are very happy that this matter has been closed and we’ll move forward.”
With Cole Bros. Circus continuing to use elephants in acts, PETA encouraged residents not to attend shows. The circus is scheduled to be in Garfield from May 31 through June 3. It will visit Denville between May 25 and 26.