Virginia (AP) – The owner of the Ringling Bros. circus has agreed
to pay a $270,000 fine to settle allegations that it violated federal animal-welfare
laws in its handling of elephants, tigers, zebras and other exotic animals.
Department of Agriculture says the civil penalty announced Monday is the
largest ever assessed against an animal exhibitor under the Animal Welfare
Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus and other well-known acts such
as Disney on Ice, said it does not admit to violating the law and agreed
to the settlement as a cost of doing business to resolve its differences
with the USDA.
look forward to working with the USDA in a cooperative and transparent manner
that meets our shared goal of ensuring that our animals are healthy and
receive the highest quality care," said a statement released by Kenneth
Feld, chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment.
reports from 2007 through this year, inspectors said circus handlers made
elephants perform when they were ill and used the same wheelbarrows to feed
meat to tigers and haul away their waste, among other allegations.
report from August alleged that a 35-year-old female Asian elephant, Banko,
was forced to perform at a show in Los Angeles despite a diagnosis of sand
colic and observations that she appeared to be suffering abdominal discomfort.
Circus officials told the inspectors that separating Banko from the performing
elephants would have been even more distressing to her.
reports also cited splintered floors and rusted cages used to contain big
cats such as tigers, and an incident in March 2008 where two zebras briefly
got loose from their enclosure at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore. In 2010,
another zebra escaped its enclosures in Atlanta and had to be captured by
area law enforcement, according to the reports.
spokesman Steve Payne said that, generally, the circus has seen an increase
in recent years in inspections not only by the USDA but also by state and
local regulators. He said that from June to September, one of the circus'
traveling units was inspected 82 times by 18 different agencies.
highly regulated. We accept that regulation. We embrace it," Payne
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has filed numerous complaints
with USDA against the circus, especially for its handling of elephants,
said the fine is a good first step. But it called on the government to confiscate
remains to be done is for the public to be made aware of this history of
abuse so that people will know to keep their children away from the circus,"
of the settlement, Ringling also agreed to hire a compliance officer who
will ensure that all employees follow the rules outlined in the Animal Welfare
Act. All employees who handle animals will also have to undergo compliance