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Circuses & Public Safety

Elephant Rampage: August 20, 1994/Honolulu, Hawaii: Tyke, an elephant with Circus International, killed her trainer and stomped and injured a circus groom and a dozen spectators. Tyke had run amok just before her performance, breaking out of the arena and leading police on a chase down several city blocks until they shot her to death with almost 100 bullets.

Click to view the footage

The animals are not the only ones in danger at the circus. Due to abusive training techniques and lives far from what nature intended, circus animals often become stressed to the point that they become dangerous, lashing out at trainers and spectators. Deaths and injuries from such incidents are not uncommon. Just look at the statistics since 1990:

Elephants: 65 deaths; 130 injuries

Big Cats: 51 deaths; 170 injuries

Bears: 14 deaths; 40 injuries

Primates: 2 deaths; 140 injuries


While many of the animals involved in these incidents are shot or otherwise killed, others continue to perform. For example: Misty, an elephant owned by the Hawthorn Corporation. Misty killed her trainer in 1983 and injured another in 1996 while giving rides to children. The USDA identified Misty as a "potentially dangerous elephant" in 1995, yet inadequacies in our current federal regulation of exotic animal acts were not able to prevent the 1996 incident. Misty has performed at circuses in New Mexico as recently as 2002.

For lists of incidences of human death and injury at the circus, visit the following web sites:

www.circuses.com (individual lists of attacks by big cats, elephants, primates, and bears)

Animal Incidents at the Circus (HSUS)

City Won’t Rent Space in Center to Circus, Albuquerque Journal, July 25, 2003
(subscription required)


Animal Protection of New Mexico, Inc. (APNM)
P.O. Box 11395, Albuquerque, NM 87192
(505) 265-2322 | (505) 265-2488 (fax) | apnm@apnm.org
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