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Circus Stories


Here in New Mexico, a young circus elephant named Heather died after being left in a hot trailer. Read more about this incident.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus was the subject of criticism when two of its baby elephants died; one was forced to perform while visibly sick and the other drowned while being chased by a trainer.

Authorities investigating a complaint that Pasha, a Siberian tiger, had damaged tendons in her trainer's face by thr owing him in the air, found Pasha lying in diarrhea, and the other cats on the premises lying in vomit and suffering from urine burns. Pasha, unable to stand, underweight, dehydrated, and suffering from abscesses and infection, died shortly thereafter.

Employees of a circus in Las Vegas, NV are quoted as saying, "I saw [the trainer] punch the camel in the eye and hit [him] with a cane and blind [him] because the camel spit at him," and, "I witnessed the beating of the cub Sheba with a chain and then with a metal rod."


Seven polar bears were found confined in 113-degree weather trying desperately to cool off.

A former Ringling Bros. employee told the Elephant Alliance, "She was a sweet little innocent brown bear who never hurt anyone. . . .but sometimes she had trouble balancing on the high wire. She was then beaten with long metal rods until she was screaming and bloody. She became so neurotic that she would beat her head against her small cage. She finally died."

A Hudson News reporter said of Ringling Bros., "Repeatedly, [a chimp] was struck with a sturdy club. The thumps could be heard outside the arena building, and the screams further than that."

Two tigers with Ringling Bros. suffered injuries that included a broken tooth after struggling desperately to escape from cages inside sweltering boxcars after the vent doors had blown shut, causing the temperature inside to skyrocket.

About newly captured baby elephants, an investigator with the National Council for the SPCA (South Africa) wrote, "One elephant was tied up in the warehouse. ... When the elephant simply moved its trunk or shifted its weight, the mahouts [elephant handlers] would all hit it. Especially the mahout in front, who would whip its face with a rubber whip. I counted that during this training session of 20 minutes, the elephant was hit or stabbed with an ankus a total of 136 times."

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