The Soul Circus Divas dance on the backs of elephants as they perform tricks during a UniverSoul Circus performance at Jamestown Mall in St. Louis County on July 25, 2012. Photo by J.B. Forbes
FROM STAFF REPORTS
July 22, 2013
A protest is planned for 5 p.m. today at Jamestown Mall to draw attention to the treatment of animals used in UniverSoul Circus shows.
The first show in the St. Louis area is at 7:30 tonight at the mall. The circus runs through Sunday.
The Atlanta-based circus was founded in 1993 and features a mix of traditional circus, vaudeville and animal acts with music that includes hip-hop, jazz and gospel. It toured 25 cities last year.
The protest is being led by Christina Tenti. She said that an elephant named Nosey and two spider monkeys used in the show are treated poorly. In a news release, she cited a 2011 U.S. Department of Agriculture complaint against Hugo “Tommy” Liebel, who owns the animals.
The complaint alleged that Nosey has been chained so tightly that she could not move and has been denied medical treatment. It also alleged that the monkeys were mistreated, including one named Reggie who escaped in 2009 in Fruitland Park, Fla., for 10 days.
Liebel in March agreed to a $7,500 fine to settle that complaint.
Tenti said her group in February had collected more than 28,500 signatures asking UniverSoul Circus to stop doing business with Liebel.
The circus did not respond to an email seeking a response to the allegations, but the company website says it opposes any form of mistreatment to animals and uses “respected licensed animal trainers” for its animal acts.
“In over 17 years and more than 8,000 performances, none of our animal vendors have ever been cited for animal abuse while performing at the UniverSoul Circus,” the company’s animal rights policy states. “We take great pride in our keen awareness and sensitivity to the needs and proper treatment of animals.”