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PETA claims circus trainer mistreated elephants

23-07-2002 02:01 Autor:
By CATHY J. SCHREIMA staff writer of Wapakoneta Daily News.
ST. MARYS — Carson & Barnes Circus also arrived in town Tuesday morning under cloudy skies and a cloud of controversy.
Officials with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) headquartered in Norfolk, Va., have charged that a former animal care director and elephant trainer for Carson and Barnes was caught on tape mistreating elephants.
Brandi Vallodolid, campaign coordinator for PETA, said that in 1999 an undercover investigator with their organization documented Tim Frisco, who was working as an animal care director with Carson & Barnes Circus, attacking, screaming obscenities and electro-shocking endangered Asian elephants.
"In the video, Frisco tells would-be elephant trainers that they must hurt elephants until they scream—and then shows exactly how to do it," PETA officials say in a news release facsimiled to The Evening Leader. "As horrifying as the images of the terrified elephants are, the vicious abuse they suffer has been standard in the circus industry for decades."
Vallodolid said, the tape was submitted to the USDA in January of 2000.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has jurisdiction regarding the treatment of elephants and other animals through the animal welfare act.
Laura Reiser, a public affairs specialist with the USDA, said PETA had talked to them about possible charges against Carson & Barnes but no formal charges have been filed.
"They have been investigated," Reiser said, "But we have never found them to be in violation. We have never charged them."
Reiser provided The Evening Leader with inspection reports for Carson and Barnes from Jan. 18, 2000 to June 5, 2002.
Reports filed Jan. 18 and May 10, 2000, state that all items were found to be in compliance. The latter investigation was conducted with Tim Frisco, the man that PETA claims abused the elephants.
About a dozen non-compliances are listed on the reports, ranging from lack of tuberculous test records for animal handlers, a Dalmatian running lose on the grounds and a fence at the circus winter quarters only being 6 foot high instead of 8 foot high.
The most serious non-compliance on records provided to The Evening Leader occurred on June 6, 2000, showed that one Asian elephant had a front leg chain on with no protective covering. All non-compliance items were corrected, according to USDA reports.
Vallodolid said the USDA sent The Evening Leader selected pieces of information.
“Just because they’ve never been charged, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” Vallodolid said. “Circus animals live a dismal life of domination, confinement and violent training.”
Brenda Pobre, an information specialist with Carson & Barnes, claims the USDA inspected the circus as a result of the video.
“No evidence of any abuse has ever been uncovered,” Pobre said. “We haven’t received their final report, but we feel sure there will be nothing of note, due to own internal investigation.”
Pobre also noted that Frisco was no longer employed by their circus. She also said besides Jenny, a three-year old baby elephant, all other elephants in their circus were already trained adults when they were acquired by Carson & Barnes.
"No one is going to spend their life working with and caring for animals that does not actually love animals," she said. "We demonstrate care for animals, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. Does it make sense we would skimp on there care?"
An e-mail message to the newspaper reads, "We have never let an animal go without a doctor’s care. We have a vet who specializes in exotic animals that cares for our animals, as well as consulting with experts from around the country on an as-needed basis."
The circus maintains that their fencing and cages are approved and that the semi-truck which carries their big cats have cages that pull out so the animals have room to move around.
According to information provided by Carson & Barnes, research by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and by Texas A & M University shows that circus elephants are less stressed, more peaceful and livelier than those located in zoos.
"Our animals represent a huge financial investment," said Alrieda Wilkins, director of advance communications for Carson & Barnes Circus. "No successful business of 62 years would be foolish enough to endanger its major and prized assets."
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