A mother and daughter who bought tickets for Monday's afternoon performance by the Cole Bros. Circus, view posters on the side of a circus truck.
MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIIDA TODAY
Written by Jim Waymer
Nov 13, 2012
When the circus comes to town, controversy sometimes follows.
Members of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida planned to protest outside the Cole Bros. Circus Monday night at Wickham Park, to bring attention to the treatment of elephants used in the circus.
Cole Bros., which will be at Wickham Park through Wednesday, agreed earlier this year to pay a $15,000 civil penalty to settle a complaint of animal cruelty regarding two elephants it once used in the circus.
The charges stemmed from allegations by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In 2009, PETA filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture that two elephants, Tina and Jewel, were hundreds of pounds underweight and not receiving proper care.
Cole Bros. agreed to pay the civil penalty but admitted no wrongdoing. The circus no longer owns any elephants, but does use elephants owned by another circus in its shows. “We believe that the animals in the complaint were not neglected or abused,” said Renee Storey, Cole Bro.’s vice president of administration. “They’re not abused, they’re very much loved.”
The company did not fight the charges because of the cost of litigation, Storey said.
She said both elephants are about 50 years old and that Jewel had lost weight because of an impacted molar, which has since been surgically repaired. Tina’s weight loss was healthy, Storey added, because the elephant had been overweight. The two elephants are now at Los Angeles Zoo.
In February 2011, Cole Bros., its owner and a former circus employee entered plea agreements in federal court in Texas to resolve Endangered Species Act violations relating to the sale of the two elephants. Cole Bros. and its owner were charged with illegally selling the elephants to the former employee. Because Asian elephants are an endangered species, it is unlawful to sell or buy them without a permit. Federal authorities fined Cole Bros. $150,000.
The circus had decided to discontinue owning elephants long before PETA’s allegations of ill treatment, Storey said. The circus currently uses six elephants supplied by Carson & Barnes Circus.
Behind the scenes at Cirque du Soleil