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For Immediate Release: 01/02/07

Federal lawsuit exposes Ringling elephant abuse

Tampa, FL — As Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus unveils a new show in Tampa, the Animal Protection Institute (API), a national animal advocacy group, asks the public to consider the abuse endured by circus elephants before buying a ticket to the show.

API, along with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, and Fund for Animals, is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against Ringling for its violations of the Endangered Species Act in its treatment of endangered Asian Elephants. Ringling claims its animals are treated like cherished family members, but its record of animal deaths and repeated documentation of cruel treatment tell a different story.

“It is time Ringling responds truthfully to the public’s concern about the training and treatment of elephants in the circus,” says Nicole Paquette, Esq., Director of Legal and Government Affairs for the Animal Protection Institute. “The simple facts are that these animals are trained by use of force and intimidation and their complex physical and psychological needs cannot be met by a circus.”

Ringling is currently under investigation by the USDA for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act after elephant trainer Troy Metzler was videotaped repeatedly striking a chained elephant with a bullhook outside an Oakland, CA performance in late 2004. Metzler, nicknamed “Captain Hook,” was recently caught again on tape striking an elephant in February 2006. Another Ringling trainer was also captured on video on July 2, 2006 striking an elephant named Tonka with a bullhook, leaving a bloody wound and causing the elephant to scream. Other open USDA investigations pending against Ringling include the death of an 8-month-old elephant and an incident where two elephants escaped from a handler and rampaged in an arena.

The bullhook is not a “guide” or “like a leash for a dog” as Ringling so often claims. It is a long, heavy wooden or metal rod featuring a sharp metal hook and poker on one end. If a person were to strike another person with a bullhook it would cause serious bodily injury. If a person were to poke, prod, or strike a dog with a bullhook, they could be charged with animal abuse, which is a crime in every state in the U.S.

“Forcing these incredible, endangered creatures to perform crude tricks for cheap entertainment through force and intimidation should be illegal,” says Paquette. “In this day and age, there is no excuse for such needless cruelty. We are calling on state legislatures across the country to outlaw this barbaric practice.”

API is a national animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education and the sponsor of legislation to ban the use of cruel bullhooks and chains on elephants in California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. For more information, visit www.api4animals.org.

DVD b-roll and still photos of Ringling animal mistreatment are available upon request.

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Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute (API), 916-447-3085 x205

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