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For Immediate Release: 09/10/08

Ringling Bros. rolls into town amidst allegations of animal abuse

Sacramento group faces off with circus in Federal court on October 20

Sacramento, CA — As Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus prepares to open in Sacramento, Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free USA) embarks on a landmark legal showdown against the circus giant, which stands accused of abusing endangered Asian elephants in violation of Federal law.

“This trial will reveal the hidden abuse occurring behind the big top at Ringling,” says Nicole G. Paquette, Esq., a witness in the case and senior vice president and general counsel for Born Free USA. “I am confident that all compassionate American citizens will be outraged when they learn how these animals are treated: repeatedly hit and prodded with bullhooks and shackled on chains for hours on end, day in and day out. Since when does animal abuse — of an endangered species no less — qualify as family entertainment?”

Born Free USA, along with three other animal protection organizations and a former Ringling employee, is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against Ringling for violating the Endangered Species Act by mistreating the endangered Asian Elephants in its care. After years of delay, the trial will force Ringling to finally answer allegations of elephant abuse in open court. Born Free USA plans to post daily blogs from the hearings on its web site www.bornfreeusa.org.

The plaintiffs’ case includes video footage of Ringling employees repeatedly hitting elephants with bullhooks (a heavy stick with a sharp steel hook on the end), as well as Ringling’s own internal written documents that graphically describe the mistreatment of the elephants. For example, Ringling’s animal behaviorist reported “an elephant dripping blood all over the arena floor during the show from being hooked.”

Plaintiffs also have newly-obtained evidence that Ringling keeps elephants virtually immobilized in chains for the majority of their lives. Internal records reveal that the elephants are chained while confined in boxcars for an average of more than 26 hours at a time, and sometimes for 60–100 hours, as the circus moves across the country.

“The information that will be released as a result of our lawsuit will help the American public, especially parents spending their hard-earned family-entertainment dollars, to make a truly informed decision about whether what they teach their children is appropriate treatment of wild and endangered animals,” Paquette added. “Abusing elephants with bullhooks and chains, both standard industry practices, is simply unacceptable.”

Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute is a national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the US and globally through legislation, litigation and public education. Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader on exotic animal legislation and a member of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition and the Species Survival Network. More information can be found at www.bornfreeusa.org and www.bornfreeusa.org/ringling.


Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266

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