Ringling Circus Slapped With Biggest Fine Ever ($270,000)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Monday that Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, must pay the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history―$270,000―for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act dating from the present back to 2007.

As part 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 training.

Ringling Bros Do Not Admit To Violating Law

Vienna-based 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.

“We 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.

But Numerous Allegations Of Cruelty

However, in reports from 2007 through this year, inspectors found, among other allegations:

*  Circus handlers made elephants perform when they were ill;

* They used the same wheelbarrows to feed meat to tigers and haul away their waste;

* 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;

* The circus had splintered floors and used rusted cages to contain big cats such as tigers;

* In March 2008 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.

And More Allegations

Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, (PETA), also made a report:

Among the evidence that PETA presented were testimonial and photographic evidence that baby elephants at Ringling’s training compound are torn away from their mothers and subjected to violent training sessions so that they will learn how to perform tricks and video footage from a PETA investigation showing how elephants used by Ringling are whipped, beaten, and yanked by heavy, sharp steel-tipped bullhooks behind the scenes, prior to performing.

PETA, 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 the elephants.

“What 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,” PETA said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement, “The civil penalty and other stipulations in the settlement agreement will promote a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all exhibitors in maintaining and caring for animals under their care.”

Let’s Stop This Cruelty!

It’s good news that the government has finally taken action to protect helpless animals. But wouldn’t it be great if no animals were forced to perform in circuses, ever again?

Why not take a first step by asking every parent you know not to take their children to the circus?

Related Stories

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Did The Government Really Turn Its Back On Abused Circus Animals?

Victory: Peru Bans Wild Animals In Circuses

Photo Credit: brady_johnson



carole fraser
carole Fr,aser4 years ago

I hope that RINGLING BRO CIRCUS and the thugs who run ROT IN HELL they all should be prosecuted for the evil cruel way they have treated these animals I watched it, it was Sickening to say the least beating these beautiful its a pity these Animals did not turn on them I hope these circus gets shut down for good .

Amir Shahzad
Amir Shahzad5 years ago

We should always took place a good behavior with animals.
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Amir Shahzad
Amir Shahzad5 years ago

animals have right to live as they like in jungles. Circus should not train or prison them in chains

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michelle B.

The circus is cruel&inhumane to all animals.

Sandi C.
Sandi C6 years ago


kaye p.
Kaye Porter6 years ago

Ban all animals from every circus. Boycott.

Wendy Mason
Wendy Mason6 years ago

animals are not entertainment and we have no right to lock up and "train" anything

Terry King
Terry King6 years ago

Fines are not the answer... We should all boycott animal based attractions of all kinds and encourage others to do the same!

moyra mcgregor
moyra mcgregor6 years ago

Animals should NEVER be used in a circus

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

I have read comments like "I will lose my income if animals cannot perform in circuses." or "I work with elephants and can tell that they really enjoy performing in the circus". I read even more troubling comments like "wild animals are treated better in circuses than they are in the wild and they live longer." While both of these statements are untrue, the act of using an animals by removing them from the wild or by captive breeding and forcing unnatural behaviors upon them is wrong. The only 2 reasons this continues to happen are
1. animals cannot speak in words (but their stereotypic body language speaks volumes. Swaying, head bobbing, rocking back and forth, pacing - all of these are UNNATURAL and have never been observed in the wild unless past trauma exists.
2. legislation allows legislators to hide behind guidelines are inadequate and very loosely followed instead of actually taking a stand. The Animal Welfare Act does not have animal welfare in mind regarding wild animals. It tells exhibitors how what kinds and how much inhumanity can be performed against them.