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Friday, May 3, 2013

Circus counters claim of elephant mistreatment


Mistreated elephants? Circus counters animal rights group's assertions
Handler Tim Frisco feeds baby carrots to Hugo, 2, the youngest elephant at the Cole Bros. Circus at Frederick Fairgrounds.

Staff photo by Adam Fried
from: fredericknewspost.com
By Kelsi Loos News-Post Staff
May 2, 2013
An animal rights group wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the treatment of animals traveling with the Cole Bros. Circus, which had shows in Frederick on Wednesday and performs again today.
The California group In Defense of Animals specifically asked for an investigation into the health and welfare of a baby elephant named Val and tigers in the circus. The complaint raises questions about the handling of Val and her brother, Hugo, during travel, performances and elephant rides.
Spokeswoman Deborah Robinson said the group sent video to the USDA in which the elephants exhibited signs of poor welfare, including pacing and bobbing their heads.
Robinson did not notice signs of physical neglect, she said.
A USDA spokesman said the agency had not received the complaint as of Wednesday. He added that Cole Bros. is no longer licensed with the USDA because the circus does not own any animals.

Mistreated elephants? Circus counters animal rights group's assertions
Hugo, a baby elephant, eats hay Wednesday morning at the Cole Bros. Circus at Frederick Fairgrounds.

Staff photo by Adam Fried
The animals at the circus are owned by licensees that contract with Cole Bros. to travel with the circus.
Renee Storey, vice president of administration for the circus, rebutted the claim that the elephants were under duress.
“They have wonderful care, and I cannot imagine why anyone would make a complaint like this unless it comes from a fundamental objection to using animals,” she said.
Storey emphasized that the elephants’ performance and travel routine were not stressful, as alleged in the complaint.
The elephants perform about half an hour a day or less and may give elephant rides for two or three hours.
 
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Elephants eat grass and hay Wednesday morning at the Cole Bros. Circus at Frederick Fairgrounds.
Staff photo by Adam Fried
The USDA requires that circus animals be under the supervision of a veterinarian and undergo a thorough physical examination at least once a year, Storey said. The circus has an additional veterinarian on call and does routine checkups, she said.
In Defense of Animals also said the elephants traveled apart from their mother, which Robinson said can stress the animals.
“In a perfect world, they would be pulled off the road and sent back with their mother,” she said. “This is just sort of part of life for an elephant in the circus, and it’s just awful.”
Storey said that the young elephants were traveling with their mother. On Wednesday afternoon, the two were in a pen with three adults, one of which was their mother, according to a circus employee.
In Defense of Animals said complaints have been made against Cole Bros. Circus in the past.
The USDA cited Allen Bros. Circus, then performing under the name Cole Bros., in 2010 for being unable to demonstrate the tiger handler was adequately trained in caring for the animals.
The circus has one master trainer who needs to be approved by the USDA and two assistants. The circus makes sure they are qualified to handle and care for the animals, Storey said.
The owner of the circus, John Pugh, pleaded guilty in 2011 to violating the Endangered Species Act by attempting to sell two Asian elephants, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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