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Cole Brothers Circus Fact Sheet

(formerly Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus)

Performing captive wildlife — elephants, lions, tigers, bears, baboons, monkeys, camels, llamas — all endure years of physical and psychological pain and suffering in traveling acts to “entertain” an uninformed audience.

Cole Brothers Circus has failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Cole Bros. Circus numerous times for failure to provide veterinary care, adequate shelter from the elements, and proper food and water, as well as failure to handle animals in a manner that prevents trauma and harm and ensures public safety.


Some Recent Incidents Involving Animals at Cole Bros. Circuses:

2/23/11

Both Cole brothers along with John Pugh, owner of Cole Bros. Circus, pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act by illegally selling two Asian elephants named Tina and Jewel to a man who planned to use them for private parties and elephant rides. Cole Bros. Circus was sentenced to four years of probation and fined $150,000. John Pugh was sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay $5,200. (United Press International)


6/7/10

The USDA cited Allen Brothers Circus, which was performing as Cole Bros. Circus, for failure to correct previously identified noncompliances including failure to demonstrate adequate experience and knowledge of the proper handling of dangerous wild or exotic animals, failure to have dangerous animals under the direct control and supervision of knowledgeable and experienced animal handler, failure to provide a travel itinerary, and failure to notify the USDA of a change in its business operations — specifically that it was now exhibiting tigers. The inspector wrote, "This puts the individual, public and the animals' safety at risk." The inspector also noted that Allen Brothers Circus appeared to be circumventing the license revocation of another exhibitor. (USDA Inspection Report)


5/4/10

The USDA cited Allen Brothers Circus, which was performing as Cole Bros. Circus, for failure to demonstrate adequate experience and knowledge of the proper handling of dangerous wild or exotic animals and failure to have dangerous animals under the direct control and supervision of a knowledgeable and experienced animal handler. The inspector wrote, "This puts the individual, public and the animals' safety at risk." The circus was also cited for failure to provide a travel itinerary as well as for failure to notify the USDA of a change in its business operations specifically that it was now exhibiting tigers. The USDA inspector noted that Allen Brothers Circus appeared to be circumventing the license revocation of another exhibitor. (USDA Inspection Report)


4/27/10

An elephant named Viola, who had been leased from Carson & Barnes to perform with Cole Bros., escaped in Lynchburg, Va. She bolted from her handlers and ran directly past a line of people waiting to buy tickets sending patrons running toward the parking lot. Viola injured her shoulder and broke a toenail when she slid in the mud and fell into a steep ravine. She was on the loose for approximately 30 minutes before being recaptured. The circus claimed that the elephant had been spooked by a rabbit. (NewsAdvance.com)


5/24/08

A Cole Bros. employee was arrested and charged with three counts of burglary and three counts of theft of movable property during the circus' appearance in Randolph, NC. (Township of Randolph News)


1/14/08

During an inspection at the Cole Bros. home facility, a USDA inspector noted, "The elephant area appears to be in the same condition as it was on the July 23, 2007, inspection." (USDA Inspection Report)


8/21/07

The USDA cited Cole Bros. exhibitor Hanneford Family Circus for failure to provide veterinary records documenting a birth deformity in an elephant named Liz, who was observed moving her right knee in a stiff manner. (USDA Inspection Report)


8/2/07

The USA cited Cole Bros. for failure to provide adequately trained employees for the elephant named Jewel given her poor physical condition. Cole Bros. also was cited for failure to maintain a corral used by the elephants (which was saturated with water and contained areas of large potholes) and failure to maintain the sanitation of an area near the elephants' holding area (which contained accumulations of burnt trash, circus cars, a trailer and a fragile wooden building , all of which were hazardous to the health of the animals. (USDA Inspection Report)


7/23/07

During an inspection at the Cole Bros. home facility, a USDA inspector noted, "The area used to house elephants is currently in need of a general cleanup. … The facility does not currently have an outdoor primary enclosure sufficient to securely contain elephants." (USDA Inspection Report)


6/5/07

The USDA cited Cole Bros. for failure to correct a previously identified noncompliance of not providing adequate veterinary care for elephants. Referring to the Texas facility housing elephants, Tina and Jewel, the inspector wrote that the lack of a permanent long-term housing facility that provides adequate shelter and enclosures jeopardizes the health of the animals and hinders their ability to gain weight." The inspector also wrote that the lack of sufficient ventilation in the barn housing the elephants can contribute to heat-related stress that also would adversely affect their health. The circus was also cited for failure to provide adequate shade in the elephants' outdoor enclosure and failure to ensure the structural strength of primary enclosures. (USDA Inspection Report)


05/15/07

The USDA cited Cole Bros. Circus for failure to provide adequate veterinary care for elephants Tina and Jewel. The inspector wrote that an elephant expert had determined that both Tina and Jewel “showed an alarming amount of weight loss and that Jewel was not fit to continue traveling with the circus.” (USDA Inspection Report)


04/10/07

The USDA cited Cole Bros. Circus again for failure to provide adequate veterinary care for Jewel, a chronically thin elephant. The inspector noted that Jewel’s “spine is prominent as is the pelvis. The areas above the eyes are very sunken. The neck appears very thin.” (USDA Inspection Report)


10/24/06

The USDA cited Cole Bros Circus for failure to provide adequate veterinary care for Jewel, one of their two elephants. The inspector noted that Jewel appeared underweight and that her sides appeared “sunken or hollowed out” and that “her spine is very prominent.” (USDA Inspection Report)


12/14/05

The USDA cited Cole Bros. Circus for failing to store supplies of food and bedding in a manner that adequately protects them against contamination. It was noted that a truck parked adjacent to hay being used to feed the animals was leaking oil (or similar lubricant), which had spread to the floor space under one of the palates of hay.

Cole Bros. was also cited in this inspection for failing to establish/maintain a safe and effective program of insect control. The inspector observed a camel named Chewy bothered by numerous flies on and around his face, nose and eyes — evidenced by constant head-shaking. Chewy was also noted to have a slight discharge from his left eye. (USDA Inspection Report)


08/25/05

A woman suffered a sprained wrist and possibly torn ligaments when an Asian elephant named Jewel on exhibit at Westmoreland Fair in Mt. Pleasant Township, PA grabbed her wrist with her trunk after the woman reached to pet her. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, News-Journal Corporation)


12/14/04

The USDA cited Cole Bros. Circus for failing to have medical records available for the camels in its care. The inspector noted that although the program of veterinary care for the camels includes annual vaccinations, and fecal exams and/or dewormings, there were no medical records to document any vaccinations, and any fecal exams and/or dewormings — making it impossible for the inspector to determine if the appropriate veterinary care is being provided to the camels.

Additionally, the USDA cited Cole Bros. for failing to maintain its perimeter fence in a manner that properly restricts the animals and that prevents unauthorized persons from being able to breach this fencing and gain contact with the animals.

The inspector noted that the perimeter fencing had sustained weather damage that allowed the inspector to push the fence and posts over with one hand, and also had a gap that was large enough to allow a person to enter the facility. (USDA Inspection Report)


07/31/04

Apollo, a 7-year-old white Bengal tiger, escaped from Cole Bros. Circus while the circus was performing in Forest Park, NY. The 450-pound tiger took a half-mile stroll around the Queens section of the city, the sight of him causing a multi-car accident on the Jackie Robinson Parkway that injured four adults and one child. Apollo was eventually coaxed back into his cage. This is the second escape of Cole Bros. animals from Forest Park (see elephant incident 07/11/95) (Associated Press)


06/23/04

The USDA cited Cole Bros. Circus (in an inspection of its animals on tour with Walker Bros. Circus) for failing to handle its animals in a manner that does not cause trauma, stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort for an incident involving an elephant called Jewel.

An eyewitness observed an elephant handler beating Jewel about the head and face, which caused her to grunt and then also make a higher pitched sound. Three inspector-veterinarians were sent in response to the police complaint filed by the eyewitness. When questioned by an inspector, the handler admitted to having hit Jewel with a plastic PVC pipe, around 1 inch in diameter. The inspectors noted an area of lighter gray, abnormal looking skin over the bony areas of Jewel’s forehead and an area of red tissue over her left eye.

During this inspection, the USDA also cited Cole Bros. for failing to maintain the facilities for the camels in a structurally sound manner that would contain the animals and protect them from injury. Inspectors noted that there was a gap in the fencing large enough for a camel to get through, and that the camels were wearing their halters while in the enclosure — which could potentially cause injury to the animals if caught on the support poles of the fencing.

Cole Bros. Circus was cited for failing to maintain required aspects of its veterinary care program. This included notes from the inspector that the written Program of Veterinary Care had not been signed or dated, this program did not provide the necessary information in its section on euthanasia (e.g. appropriate dosages for each species, appropriate vein to use for each species), and that two new employees working with the elephants had not been TB-tested — in accordance with the disease prevention and control plan in this program. (USDA Inspection Report)


05/06/04

Faced with dwindling audiences, sliding profits, and increased pressure from animal advocacy organizations highlighting their violations of the Animal Welfare Act, Cole Bros. Circus joined the growing number of traveling circuses deciding against using elephants in their shows. However, Cole Bros. will continue to rent out its two remaining elephants, Tina and Jewel, for television commercials and other performances, including Republican party events. (Baltimore Sun, The Enterprise)


05/03/04

The USDA cited Cole Bros. Circus for not promptly notifying the regional USDA office of its name change from Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. The inspector noted that notification of changes in operation, including name changes, are essential to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act. This inspection was conducted for animals on tour with the Walker Bros. Circus. (USDA Inspection Report)


02/05/04

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus was cited by the USDA for failing to maintain appropriate veterinary care for its animals. The inspector noted that the two llamas had overgrown hooves, and that one llama had a callus on the bridge of its nose underneath its halter. He also noted that a camel had discharge from its left eye and that flies were attracted to this area and causing discomfort for the camel.

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failing to maintain its animal enclosures properly. The inspector noted that there were several holes and splintering in the wood stall used to house the llamas — indicating that this deterioration could cause injury to the animals.

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. was cited for failing to provide sufficient shade to protect animals from overheating or discomfort from direct sunlight. It was noted that no shade was provided for the camels, aside from a few nearby trees which would only offer some protection during the later part of the day.

The USDA also cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for not making all records available for inspection. (USDA Inspection Report)


00/00/03

The USDA cited and fined Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. $2,750 for “improper handling of an elephant” after receiving an 03/27/03 videotape of a trainer hitting an elephant with a broom. The trainer was fired. (12/00/03 USDA letter, Baltimore Sun)


08/23/01

A Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. circus clown, known as “Smiley the Clown,” was found guilty on nine counts, including sodomy, sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child, for sexually abusing his teenage assistant. The boy testified that the clown, Christopher Bayer, began molesting him in 1995, when he was 11 years old. (Associated Press)


06/14/01

In response to multiple complaints received by the USDA’s Eastern Regional Office, the USDA instigated an inspection of an elephant named Bessie and noted that she suffers from arthritis, causing her to be “short strided in both front legs,” more notable in the front left with moderate head bobbing. (USDA Inspection Report)


06/05/01

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to have a veterinarian-approved exercise plan for the dogs available for review. (USDA Inspection Report)


05/23/01

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failing to have an updated Program for Veterinary Care, failing to have a Capture/Restraint Protocol in the event of a tiger escape, and failing to have a written veterinarian-approved diet plan for the tigers since they were not being fed a commercial exotic feline diet. (USDA Inspection Report)


02/12/01

In response to a complaint about inadequate control of an elephant named Tina, and use of physical force, the USDA began an investigation into the matter. (USDA Inspection Report)


07/11/00

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to maintain the elephants' primary conveyances. (USDA Inspection Report)


05/18/00

In response to complaints by a local animal-rights group in Stamford, CT, Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus performances were replaced by Cirque Eos, an animal-free show. (The Springfield News-Leader)


02/03/00

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. with failure to handle two elephants, Helen and Bessie, in a manner that prevents trauma or physical harm after the inspector found that Helen and Bessie had several white circular scars from being hit with an ankus (also called a bullhook).

The circus was also cited with failure to employ a veterinarian experienced with elephants and failure to provide adequate veterinary care. Bessie bleeds after and/or during urination and has not been diagnosed or treated for the condition. Helen has fecal material protruding from under her tail and has not been diagnosed or treated for the condition. According to the trainer, her tail was paralyzed by a truck accident (see below). In addition, all four elephants, Helen, Bessie, Jewel, and Tina, are in need of foot care.

The USDA also cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to properly design the transport enclosure after Helen was slammed into the forward wall and injured during sudden braking. This resulted in paralysis of her tail.

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. was also cited for failure to properly store food after several bags of grain were found with holes caused by rodents. In addition, Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. failed to have documentation of the tuberculosis status of all handlers who had direct contact with the elephants in the last year. (USDA Inspection Report)


02/03/00

On the same day that the USDA inspected Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. and cited the circus with numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act, the USDA issued a press release announcing a settlement between the two for Cole Bros.’ abusive use of a bullhook on several elephants (see entry 04/20/99). The settlement includes a $10,000 civil penalty to be suspended provided Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. spends this amount on an elephant consultant that would visit the circus twice per year. Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. is also to maintain for two years its program for the improvement of elephant handling and care. (USDA Press Release)


08/27/99

The chief officer for the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New Jersey filed three criminal complaints and three civil complaints against Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus saying the circus conducted elephant rides with Helen while the elephant’s legs were injured. The officer videotaped Helen during her 08/18-20/99 performances and had experts examine her legs to establish probable cause for the suit. (Daytona Beach News-Journal)


08/00/99

Two elephants with Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus died within two weeks of each other. Petunia, also known as Pete, the lead elephant with Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus, died 08/21/99 at the age of 49. Conti died 13 days later at age 54. USDA Spokesman, Jim Rogers, is suspicious of wrongdoing and is looking into “possible violations of the Animal Welfare Act.” Rogers said that his office is inundated with complaints from people who have attended Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus shows. He said they “get calls from everywhere they go.” It is reported that Pete was injured earlier in the month when a center pull fell and struck her on the back and rear quarters while she was helping to put up the circus tent. (Daytona Beach News-Journal, Action for Animals Network)


05/25/99

During a USDA inspection, the inspector noted, “[t]here is some concern about the storage of chemicals above stored food items.” (USDA Inspection Report)


05/15/99

An elephant named Betty, leased to Clyde Brothers Johnson Circus Corp. (Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros.), attacked and killed Shayne Gressett while he helped out at the circus in Timmons, Ontario. Betty was used to give elephant rides when she kicked the young man in the head. (Letter from Shayne’s mother, Mealey’s Litigation Report, Dallas Association of Young Lawyers’ publication The Dicta)


04/20/99

The USDA charged Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus with violations of the Animal Welfare Act. USDA undersecretary Michael V. Dunn stated, “[w]e believe that on numerous occasions employees of the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus abusively used an elephant hook on several animals. Charges of abuse are always among the most serious. And, it both angers and saddens me when I hear allegations such as these.” Investigators found that on 06/03/98, two of the six elephants had wounds caused by the abusive use of a bullhook and that on 06/12/98, four of the six elephants had wounds caused by the abusive use of a bullhook. (USDA Press Release)


June 1998

During two separate inspections, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found several elephants with wounds evidently inflicted by abusive use of an ankus. Inspectors noted two elephants with ankus wounds on June 3, 1998, and four elephants with ankus wound on June 12, 1998. In a press release issued by the agency, Michael V. Dunn, undersecretary for USDA's marketing and regulatory programs, stated, "We believe that Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus abusively used an elephant hook on several animals." (USDA APHIS Press Release, 4/20/99)


10/28/97

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to properly maintain transport trailer. (USDA Inspection Report)


08/13/97

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to maintain to elephant trailers so as to maintain structural strength and prevent animal injury. (USDA Inspection Report)


07/02/97

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failing to have a meat freezer that can keep the meat supply properly frozen. (USDA Inspection Report)


06/13/97

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to store food in a manner that adequately protects the supplies from spoilage, deterioration and/or contamination. The inspection revealed that chemicals were being stored directly on bags of grain. Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. was also cited for failure to maintain transport enclosures and failure to keep clean water receptacles for the animals. (USDA Inspection Report)


03/20/97

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to maintain medical records and document treatments for the elephants. No records exist to document treatment for conditions as ordered by the veterinarian. In addition, medical records concerning the death of the elephant Ola were not available. (USDA Inspection Report)


02/24/97

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to have proper maintenance around the meat freezer and for broken paneling in the trailer that needs to be replaced. (USDA Inspection Report)


02/19/97

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to maintain medical records for the elephants. The elephant Pete has circular swelling for which there is no indication there has been attention or treatment. The veterinarian’s bill indicates medication was dispensed to three elephants but does not clearly identify the medications and Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. has no medical record of this. There was expired medication in the elephant barn and medical records did not reflect a veterinarian bill regarding treatment to the elephant Ola. (USDA Inspection Report)


12/06/96

The USDA cited Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. for failure to have a written veterinary care program. (USDA Inspection Report)


07/10/95

About a dozen people were injured as they collided while trying to run from two Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. elephants who broke free before a show at Forest Park in the Queens section of New York. Seven people were treated by Emergency Medical Service and at the hospital. The elephants also damaged property, including a parked car. (For another escape incident at Forest Park see entry for 07/31/04.) (Associated Press, The Cincinnati Post)


05/18/95

In Hanover, PA, a line of six Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. elephants got spooked at the North Hanover Mall. Several of the elephants rampaged, smashing windows, denting cars, and crashing through a window at a Sears Auto Center. One elephant was injured. (Associated Press)


06/05/93

An elephant, who was chained among a group of ten Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. elephants, crushed a man to death by pinning him against a truck trailer at the Fishkill Mall in New York. (The New York Times)


05/21/92

Two tigers escaped from an unlocked cage during a Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. performance in Muhlenberg Township, PA. One tiger roamed around the center ring, frightening 2,000 spectators before he was coaxed back into his cage. (Reading Times)

5/25/1983

In Mystic Island, NJ, a spectator was severely injured by an elephant named Freda who wrapped her trunk around him and flung him to the ground. Circus officials said the man had tried to blow into Freda's trunk before the incident occurred. (Newsday)


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