READER LETTER: Cole Bros. Circus is Coming Back

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READER LETTER: Cole Bros. Circus is Coming Back

Leonardtown, MD - 4/24/2012

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With the Cole Bros. Circus coming to St. Mary's county again this year, I thought it was important to revisit the many USDA animal welfare violations against them. I sent the following information to the county commissioners last year concerning USDA citations and the Cole Bros. Circus (see below).  I was honestly disappointed to see that this circus was allowed to come to the St. Mary's County Fairgrounds again this year.  It makes me realize that as long as someone is getting paid by the circus, they will continue to be allowed to put on their show.   The only way to stop the circus is for the public to stop going!  So, again, I am asking the public...PLEASE DON'T SUPPORT ANIMAL ABUSE AND NEGLECT!  DON'T ATTEND COLE BROS. CIRCUS!!   Thank you.

Dear Commissioner,
I am writing to inform you of the many US Dept. of Agriculture citations for animal abuse and neglect against the Cole Brothers Circus, which will be arriving at our beautiful St. Mary’s fairgrounds early next week.  The list below includes citations dating back to 2004, including incidents in which members of the public were injured or killed.  As of 2008, Cole Bros. Circus doesn’t even have its own USDA license, and must lease its animal acts from other circuses.  Most recently, in February of this year, the owner of Cole Bros. Circus pled guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act.
 I am a science teacher at Leonardtown High School, and also the SMECO Science Teacher of the Year of 2008.  As a science teacher, I feel that it is my responsibility to educate my students to respect and care for all living things.  I am saddened each spring by the arrival of the Cole Bros. Circus in Leonardtown, and the sight of the elephants walking in circles as I leave LHS each afternoon.
Many cities and large corporations have stopped supporting circuses because of these abuses and the safety hazards to unsuspecting families that visit. 
I urge you to be a voice for the animals of the circus, who cannot speak up for themselves.  Please don’t support Cole Brothers Circus in St. Mary’s County.
 Sincerely,
Emily Sunderland
 
 Cole Bros. Circus-CitationsP.O. Box 127, DeLand, FL 32721
 
Cole Bros. Circus, previously known as Clyde Beatty–Cole Bros. Circus, has failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has repeatedly cited Cole Bros. for failure to provide veterinary care to animals, including elephants who have shown extreme weight loss, as well as failure to provide adequate space to animals. The USDA filed formal charges of AWA violations against Cole Bros. because elephants showed signs of being abused with sharp metal bullhooks; a New Jersey humane society charged the circus with cruelty to animals for overloading and overworking an elephant; and two elephants—who were described as malnourished and neglected—died suddenly within a two-week period. In five separate incidents, elephants with Cole Bros. have become violent, killing two members of the public, injuring more than a dozen others, and rampaging during performances, causing tens of thousands of dollars in property damage. As of February 2008, Cole Bros. no longer has its own USDA license and leases animal acts from other circuses, including Carson & Barnes Circus. Carson & Barnes employees were videotaped beating elephants with bullhooks and shocking them with electric prods, and the USDA has fined Carson & Barnes for elephant abuse. In 2011, Cole Bros. and its president pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act by illegally selling two Asian elephants and were sentenced to probation and ordered to pay more than $150,000 in fines. 
February 23, 2011: Both Cole Bros. and John Pugh, the company owner and president, pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act by illegally selling two Asian elephants named Tina and Jewel to a man who planned to use them for private parties and elephant rides. Cole Bros. was sentenced to four years of probation and ordered to pay a $150,000 fine. Pugh was sentenced to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay $5,200. Both Jewel and Tina were taken into federal custody and now live together at the San Diego Zoo.
June 7, 2010: The USDA cited Allen Bros. Circus, which was performing as Cole Bros., for failure to correct previously identified noncompliances including failure to demonstrate adequate experience and knowledge of the proper handling of dangerous wild or exotic animals, failure to have dangerous animals under the direct control and supervision of a knowledgeable and experienced animal handler, failure to provide a travel itinerary, and failure to notify the USDA of a change in its business operations—specifically that it was now exhibiting tigers. The inspector wrote, ?This puts the individual, public, and the animal‘s safety at risk,? and noted that Allen Bros. Circus appeared to be circumventing the license revocation of another exhibitor.
 
May 4, 2010: The USDA cited Allen Bros. Circus, which was performing as Cole Bros., for failure to demonstrate adequate experience and knowledge of the proper handling of dangerous wild or exotic animals and failure to have dangerous animals under the direct control and supervision of a knowledgeable and experienced animal handler. The inspector wrote, ?This puts the individual, public, and the animal‘s safety at risk.? The circus was also cited for failure to provide a travel itinerary as well as for failure to notify the USDA of a change in its business operations—specifically that it was now exhibiting tigers. The USDA inspector noted that Allen Bros. Circus appeared to be circumventing the license revocation of another exhibitor.
April 27, 2010: An elephant named Viola, who had been leased from Carson & Barnes to perform with Cole Bros., escaped in Lynchburg, Virginia. She bolted from handlers and ran directly past a line of people waiting to buy tickets, sending some running toward the parking lot. Viola injured her shoulder and broke a toenail when she slid in the mud and fell into a steep ravine. She was on the loose for approximately 30 minutes before being recaptured. The circus claimed that the elephant had been spooked by a rabbit.
 
May 24, 2008: A Cole Bros. employee was arrested and charged with three counts of burglary and three counts of theft of movable property during the circus‘s appearance in Randolph, North Carolina. The man admitted to committing three burglaries.
 
January 14, 2008: During an inspection at the Cole Bros. home facility, a USDA inspector noted, ?The elephant area appears to be in the same condition as it was on the July 23, 2007, inspection ….?
 
August 21, 2007: The USDA cited Cole Bros. exhibitor Hanneford Family Circus for failure to provide veterinary records documenting a birth deformity in an elephant named Liz, who was observed moving her right knee in a stiff manner.
 
August 2, 2007: The USDA cited Cole Bros. for failure to provide adequately trained employees for the elephant Jewel. The inspector wrote, ?Given the current condition of Jewel, the handler … does not have adequate training or experience to provide day to day and/or specialized handling … [to] ensure that Jewel‘s care and husbandry needs are met.? He wrote of Jewel‘s condition, ?[She] still remains gaunt. [Her] facial bones are prominent and evidence of weight loss can be seen along her dorsal spine, shoulders, and hips. … She displayed distress and discomfort …,? and her failure to gain weight ?may indicate that she has a chronic, debilitating condition.? Cole Bros. was also cited for failure to maintain a corral used by the elephants, which was saturated with water and contained areas of large potholes, and failure to maintain the sanitation of an area near the elephants‘ holding area, which contained ?[a]ccumulations of burnt trash, circus cars, a trailer, and a fragile wooden building … [which] are hazardous to the health of the animals.?
 
July 23, 2007: During an inspection at the Cole Bros. home facility, a USDA inspector noted, ?The area used to house elephants is currently in need of a general clean up. … The facility does not currently have an outdoor primary enclosure sufficient to securely contain elephants ….?
 
June 5, 2007: The USDA cited Cole Bros. for failure to correct a previously identified noncompliance of not providing adequate veterinary care for elephants. Referring to the Texas facility housing elephants Tina and Jewel, the inspector wrote that ?the lack of a permanent long term housing facility that provides adequate shelter and enclosures jeopardizes the health of the animals and [hinders] their ability to gain weight.? The inspector also wrote, ?The lack of sufficient ventilation in the barn housing the elephants can contribute to heat-related stress that would also adversely affect their health.? The circus was also cited for failure to provide adequate shade in the elephants‘ outdoor enclosure and failure to ensure the structural strength of primary enclosures.
 
May 15, 2007: The USDA cited Cole Bros. for failure to correct a previously identified noncompliance of not providing adequate veterinary care to elephants Tina and Jewel. The inspector wrote that an elephant expert had determined that both Tina and Jewel ?showed an alarming amount of weight loss and that Jewel was not fit to continue traveling with the circus.? The expert requested that both elephants be moved to the circus‘s winter quarters in Florida until they returned to good health. Instead, the circus subjected Tina and Jewel to the stress of lengthier transport to an unapproved facility in Texas that was not equipped for long-term housing of elephants and could not provide adequate care, monitoring, or access to veterinarians experienced in elephant health. At the Texas facility, the elephants were relegated to a travel trailer during inclement weather, and the elephants‘ daily food intake was not being recorded as prescribed by the elephant expert. Cole Bros. was also cited for improperly storing unidentified immobilization drugs for elephants.
 
April 10, 2007: The USDA cited Cole Bros. for failure to correct a previously identified noncompliance of not providing veterinary care to Jewel, an elephant with undiagnosed weight loss who was being subjected to stressful travel conditions. The inspector wrote, ?[Jewel] is noticeably thin. The spine is prominent as is the pelvis. The areas above the eyes are very sunken. The neck appears very thin.? The USDA instructed the circus to have Jewel evaluated by a veterinarian who specializes in elephants.
March 17, 2007: The USDA cited Cole Bros. for failure to correct a previously identified noncompliance of not providing veterinary care to diagnose the cause of the elephant Jewel‘s weight loss. Jewel was ?still noticeably thin? and had shown no significant weight gain in a five-week period. The circus was also cited for failure to provide documentation of annual tuberculosis tests on the elephants, and the inspector wrote, ?[N]either Jewel nor Tina should travel … [Prohibiting] public contact with these elephants is necessary to ensure the health of both the elephants and the public by minimizing the potential spread of tuberculosis.?
 
February 15, 2007: The USDA cited Cole Bros. for failure to correct a previously identified noncompliance of not providing adequate veterinary care to a chronically thin elephant. The inspector wrote that Jewel‘s face had a sunken appearance, her spine was prominent, and her ribs were visible when she walked. The inspector also wrote that the elephant handler‘s long delay in assessing Jewel‘s weight ?[was] not considered appropriate considering her body condition.? There was no documentation of a recent tuberculosis test, prompting the inspector to write, ?Because TB can be a cause of chronic weight loss, it is imperative that the elephants are tested in a timely manner.?
 
October 24, 2006: The USDA cited Cole Bros. for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to Jewel, an underweight elephant. The inspector wrote that Jewel‘s spine ?is very prominent? and that ?there appears to be very little muscling over the eyes.? During this inspection, the USDA also cited Cole Bros. for failing to store the animals‘ food in a manner that would protect it from contamination.
 
December 14, 2005: The USDA cited Cole Bros. for improperly storing food next to a truck leaking oil. The circus was also cited for failure to establish an effective fly-control program, as evidenced by a camel with numerous flies on and around the face, nose, and eyes; ?a slight serious discharge? from one eye; and the animal‘s constant head shaking.
 
August 25, 2005: An Asian elephant named Jewel, owned by Cole Bros. and touring with Wambold‘s Circus Menagerie, suddenly wrapped her trunk around a woman‘s wrist and yanked her as she reached out toward the elephant from a crowd of people feeding the animal at the county fair in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pennsylvania. The woman was treated at an emergency room for a sprain and possibly torn ligaments.
 
December 14, 2004: The USDA cited Cole Bros. for failure to provide medical records documenting whether the camel received vaccinations, fecal exams, and deworming as required in the program of veterinary care as well as failure to provide perimeter fencing to adequately contain elephants and camels.
 
July 31, 2004: A 450-pound white tiger bolted from Cole Bros. while being transferred from one cage to another near the Forest Park bandshell in Queens, New York. Dozens of police officers with machine guns and tranquilizer darts pursued the tiger for 30 minutes as he prowled for a mile through a park crowded with picnickers, scattering screaming people and causing two traffic accidents. He was recaptured by the trainer. Two women filed a $60 million lawsuit after suffering spinal fractures and other injuries in the multicar pileup on the Jackie Robinson Parkway.
 
June 23, 2004: The USDA cited Cole Bros. for failure to correct a previously identified noncompliance of causing elephants trauma, physical harm, and behavioral stress. A witness reported seeing a circus worker repeatedly hit an elephant about the head and face with a long stick. The elephant grunted and also gave ?a high pitched sound.? The elephant handler subsequently admitted to the USDA inspector that he ?had hit the elephant named Jewel several times about the head? with a plastic PVC pipe because the elephant had touched some wires. The inspector observed apparent injuries on Jewel‘s forehead and above her left eye. The circus was also cited for failure to test new employees working with elephants for tuberculosis, failure to have a complete program of veterinary care, and failure to maintain the camel enclosure.
May 3, 2004: The USDA cited Beatty-Cole for failure to notify the agency of a name change. The circus‘ new name is Cole Bros. Circus under American Circus Corporation.
 
February 5, 2004: The USDA cited Beatty-Cole for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to two llamas with overgrown and deviated hooves, a llama with a callus on the bridge of his nose, and a camel with eye discharge. The circus was also cited for failure to provide camels with shelter from the sun, failure to maintain the llama stalls in good repair, and failure to provide records of disposition for a zebra.

 
Emily Sunderland
Science Teacher
Leonardtown High School

Link to last year's letter: www.thebaynet.com/news/index.cfm/fa/viewstory/story_ID/22360



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