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Good News For Elephants

December 1st, 2011 by Nicole Meyer

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The past week has seen some steps forward for elephants in circuses. These are only small steps but they represent progress for elephants and, for Dumbo, a life that has improved in significant ways.

Dumbo a circus performer no more 

For nineteen months, we searched for Dumbo – the African elephant who killed her handler at a Pennsylvania Shrine Circus in April of 2010 and then disappeared from view. The USDA confirmed an open investigation into that incident, following a complaint from IDA. With your help, we were persistent in demanding the USDA’s urgent attention to Dumbo’s welfare, filing complaints and mobilizing people to write to the USDA on her behalf, while making efforts to locate and monitor her.

We can now report that Dumbo has been moved to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado; she is finally out of the hands of her circus “owners’” – the notorious Frisco family.

This is not the perfect solution. Of course, we would have much preferred that Dumbo spend the rest of her life at a natural habitat sanctuary in a more suitable climate. But we are pleased that she will no longer be forced to give rides or perform circus tricks at the point of a bullhook; the zoo manages its elephants using protected contact. She will no longer have to endure the intense confinement of travel.  And she now lives with three African elephants, ending years of solitude.

For Dumbo, who is known as Jambo in her new home, life is better.

Ringling hit with the biggest fine ever by USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has hit the owner of Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus with a $270,000 fine to settle charges that the circus violated federal animal welfare law. The charges involved numerous violations over the past three years, including

  • forcing a sick elephant to perform
  • endangering animals and the public by failing to safely handle an elephant who broke away from her handlers during a pre-show
  • carrying food for the tigers in the same containers used to remove waste from the cages

In all there were more than 24 violations cited, and the fine is the maximum allowed by federal law ($10,000 per violation). The circus has agreed to train staff to comply with welfare requirements, as well. While Ringling officially admits to no wrongdoing, and the fine is nothing more than the cost of doing business for wealthy circus owner Feld Entertainment, Inc., the media is generally getting the message that there were significant animal welfare violations that prompted this settlement, which means that the public is hearing about Ringling’s abuse.

IDA joined with other animal groups to organize the largest circus protest ever against Ringling in Los Angeles in July. We will continue to monitor Ringling and other circuses, to file complaints with the USDA, and to educate the public about the suffering of animals used in the circus.