Carson & Barnes Circus rolled through Palos Hills on Monday and Tuesday despite PETA alleging that circus trainers abuse their animals in private training sessions. Head elephant trainer Chip Arthurs leads the two stars of the Big Top Show, Viola and Kelly in Palos Hills, with a combined weight of over 19,000 pounds. (Kevin M. Coyne, Chicago Tribune)
By Kevin M. Coyne, Special to the Tribune
August 20, 2013
Carson & Barnes Circus set up the Big Top in Palos Hills despite animal rights group PETA urging the mayor to cancel the circus.
"We've had the circus here every year for six years and PETA has probably objected every year," Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said. "As far as our understanding of that particular circus and the history we've had with them, we have not observed that (animal abuse) or seen that to the best of our knowledge."
According to USDA records, Carson & Barnes agreed to a settlement of $3,714 after being issued 10 citations for violating the Animal Welfare Act from Aug. 27, 2011, to April 27, 2012.
"They have a long and well-documented history of abusing animals and they've been repeatedly cited by the USDA for at least 114 violations of the Animal Welfare Act." said Delcianna Winders, director of captive animal law enforcement with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Kristin Parra, who serves as Carson & Barnes business manager and is the daughter of current owners Barbara and Geary Byrd, said the circus has nothing to hide and the public can see for themselves how the animals are treated. Earlier this month, the USDA inspected the circus and found no violations.
"I am tired of PETA making the assumption for the general public and saying that we abuse our animals," Parra said. "I don't condone animal abuse and I want people to come out and see first-hand how our animals are treated. We love our animals and they are part of our family."
PETA officials, however, allege the animals are abused during training sessions.
"PETA is making no assumptions regarding Carson & Barnes abusing their animals," Winders said. "Animals are being abused during training sessions, which are not open to the public and not inspected by the Department of Agriculture."
Carson & Barnes head elephant trainer Chip Arthurs told the Tribune earlier this week that the animals are not abused and live longer with the circus than they would in the wild. "The animals are safer, free of poachers, well-fed, and we are with the animals all day and every day," he said.