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For Immediate Release: 03/16/09

Landmark Elephant Protection Act Passed in Connecticut

Committee acts after circus CEO admits in court that elephants are struck with bullhooks

Hartford, CT — The Joint Environment Committee of Connecticut’s General Assembly passed HB 6555, a bill to protect elephants from abusive use of cruel and inhumane devices such as bullhooks and chains. The bill was introduced by Representative Diana Urban (D-North Stonington), and is supported by national animal advocacy group Born Free USA and a consortium of concerned Connecticut citizens.

“We introduced this legislation because Connecticut cares about the welfare of these incredible, endangered animals,” says Representative Urban. “We are supposed to be a progressive society, and if circuses have not found ways to transport and display animals that don’t involve inflicting pain, injury and emotional distress, they don’t belong in Connecticut.”

Nicole Paquette, Senior Vice President of Born Free USA, applauded the Committee’s swift action after returning from Washington, DC where she served as a witness in the ongoing trial against Ringling Brothers Circus for violations of the Endangered Species Act. “Evidence from our lawsuit supports the very pressing need for this legislation,” Paquette noted. “These elephants are forced to endure a lifetime of misery — they are kept virtually immobilized in chains for the majority of their lives. Evidence from the trial has revealed that elephants are chained for an average of more than 26 hours at a time, and sometimes for as much as 60 to 100 hours, as the circus moves across the country.”

The case against Ringling is expected to conclude on Wednesday, March 18. According to an Associated Press report, circus CEO Kenneth Feld admitted in court that “he’s seen handlers hit elephants under the chin, behind the ears or on the legs with a bull hook.” Internal documents obtained by Born Free USA also shed new light on the inhumane treatment of circus elephants including:

  • Ringling’s animal behaviorist reported “an elephant dripping blood all over the arena floor during the show from being hooked.”
  • In internal emails, a Ringling veterinary assistant reported that “[a]fter this morning’s baths, at least 4 of the elephants came in with multiple abrasions and lacerations from the hooks.” “The lacerations were very visible ... (a handler) applied wonder dust just before the show.” Wonder dust is used to stop the bleeding of a wound and it is charcoal in color which covers up the spot from public view.
  • Another report saw Troy Metzler, one of Ringling’s elephant trainers, “hitting Angelica (an elephant) 3 to five times in the stocks before unloading her and then using an electric prod ...”

“If a citizen of Connecticut was to strike a dog with a bullhook, they could be charged with animal abuse. Aren’t elephants worthy of the same simple protection?” says Representative Annie Hornish (D-Granby) who is a member of the Joint Environment Committee. “Substantial proof that elephants are suffering in the circus exists. I am pleased that the Environment Committee recognized the need and voted to support this important animal protection legislation.”

The bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee where they will likely take action in the next few weeks.

Born Free USA is a leading national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the U.S. and globally. More information is available at www.bornfreeusa.org. Details on the trial against Ringling Bros. circus can be found at www.bornfreeusa.org/ringling.


Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916-267-7266
Representative Diana Urban, 860-287-2144
Representative Annie Hornish, 860-966-1819

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