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For Immediate Release: 11/14/06

St. Louis Dogs Howl over Use of Cruel Bullhooks on Ringling Circus Elephants

WHO: Nicole Paquette, Director of Legal and Government Affairs of the Animal Protection Institute, a national animal advocacy group and plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against Ringling Bros. for violations of the Endangered Species Act; Members of START (St. Louis Animal Rights Team) and their canine companions.

WHAT: A “howl-in” over the use of cruel bullhooks on circus elephants. Activists and dogs will patrol the plaza with posters, pictures of bullhooks, and an actual bullhook. Ringling Bros. circus claims the bullhook is used “like a leash for a dog” but advocates contest that the use of the bullhook to control a dog would be considered animal abuse under Missouri law.

WHEN: Wednesday, November 15, 2006, 10:30am.

WHERE: Kiener Plaza, on N. Broadway, in between Market and Chestnut Streets, across from the Old Courthouse.

WHY: 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.

Ringling Bros. regularly inflicts punishment on elephants with the bullhook and there is no outcry for the welfare and treatment of these highly intelligent, endangered animals. This is why API is a plaintiff (along with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Welfare Institute and Fund for Animals) in an unprecedented federal lawsuit against Ringling Bros., for violating the Endangered Species Act, in its mistreatment of Asian elephants.

“It is time Ringling responds truthfully to the public’s concern about the training and treatment of elephants in the circus,” says Nicole Paquette, 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. In this day and age, there is no excuse for such needless cruelty.”

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 striking an elephant named Tonka with a bullhook, causing the elephant to scream and leaving a bloody wound, on July 2, 2006. 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.

DVD b-roll footage of Ringling bullhook abuse will be available to members of the press.


Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute, 916-267-7266

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