A Life Cut Short in the Circus

March 16th, 2012 by Nicole Meyer


Too many times an elephant in a zoo or circus dies, with no acknowledgement at all. It’s as if she or he never existed. So with this blog IDA marks the passing of 29-year-old Dolly, who performed for nearly her entire life with Jorge and Louann Barreda’s circus act. Her companions Lou, Makia and Lovey, who have also performed for the Barredas their whole lives, are still traveling with them in the UniverSoul Circus. 

Dolly, who was taken from her wild family in 1987, was on the road with the circus when she died. According to the necropsy report provided to the USDA, her presumed cause of death was “metabolic failure secondary to esophageal obstruction and general anesthesia.” She was brought to a veterinarian’s office with a wad of “feed material” choking her and put under anesthesia so that the material could be removed, became very weak, and died.

IDA has long had grave concerns over the health and welfare of all of Barreda’s elephants. Last year we filed several complaints questioning their veterinary care. Following one IDA complaint, a USDA inspection found “no noncompliances.” But we pressed the USDA to investigate further, armed with photographic evidence demonstrating a lack of appropriate foot care. This resulted in the issuance of an “Official Warning” to the Barredas for failure to provide adequate veterinary care. It was issued about a month after Dolly’s death.

Dolly deserves to be remembered, and IDA will honor her memory by continuing to fight for other elephants forced to live unnatural lives in circuses. And we will urge the USDA to confiscate Dolly’s surviving companions from an exhibitor with a proven history of indifference to their medical needs.

UniverSoul Circus’s schedule is available here. If they are coming to your area, and you can help by organizing a leafleting event or by monitoring the elephants, please contact