This week the Garden Bros. Circus began three weeks of shows in Florida. The circus is traveling with elephants and camels. Garden Bros. is a new circus, founded in 2015 by Niles Garden. The Garden family has a history of criminal charges, animal cruelty citations, lawsuits and customer complaints dating back three decades. Download ARFF’s fact sheet, “Garden family circuses: A troubled history.”
A now defunct circus managed by Niles Garden, the Sterling & Reid Bros. Circus, had a sordid record. In 2002, a handler with the circus was arrested in Virginia for beating an elephant bloody during a performance. In 2001, a bear fell out of a circus truck onto a highway in Louisiana and wasn’t discovered missing until 1/2 hour later. In 2001, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported, “The [U.S. Department of Agriculture] has issued more than 30 pages of violations to Sterling & Reid since 1999. And it fined the circus $3,250….”
You Can Help
Join protests against the Garden Bros. Circus in Cocoa (July 6-7) Punta Gorda (July 13) and West Palm Beach (July 23). Additional protests to be scheduled.
An animal act called Sea Lion Splash is a frequent performer at county fairs in Florida. During a May 17 inspection at a fair in South Carolina, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found numerous serious violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA):
- Five sea lions were confined in a pool that did not meet the AWA’s minimum size requirements. The traveling exhibit also failed to provide the animals with adequate protection from direct sun.
- Three of the five sea lions were found to be suffering from serious, painful eye conditions. The USDA inspector noted that water in the sea lion’s pool was not being tested, and chlorine levels and lack of salinity in the pool was contributing to the eye problems. According to the inspection report, “The attending veterinarian has prescribed all of the sea lions have easy access to salt water. This is not being done.” The USDA inspector also noted that medical records show that one of the sea lions had similar eye problems in June 2015, indicating “recurrent, chronic eye problems which are not being adequately addressed and treated properly.”
- The USDA inspector called into question the qualifications of the two trainers. The inspector reported that the head trainer “does not appear to have adequate training and knowledge to be the primary caretaker for these animals;” also, “The caretaker does not have a copy of the USDA regulations and has not read them.”
The following fairs featured Sea Lion Splash in early 2016. Please contact the fairs and ask them to reconsider including Sea Lion Splash in future fairs.
Daniel West, Manager
Manatee County Fair
Jay Spicer, Manager
Martin County Fair Association
Rory Martin, President
Sarasota Agricultural Fair
Steven Shechtman, President
Santa’s Enchanted Forest
Online comment form.
When a USDA inspector stopped by the Aleppo Shriners Circus in Wilmington, Massachusetts on April 22, she found that the main source of food for two adult brown bears was “a large amount of bread.” The bears, owned by Florida-based Rosaire’s Bears, perform a depressing circus act muzzled and chained (see below photo).
The inspector noted that bread does not meet the nutritional requirements of adult brown bears. To correct the violation, the bear’s owner made a quick trip to the grocery store. The inspector wrote in her report, “The licensee corrected this item at the time of inspection by going to store and bringing back a large amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.”
It is common for animals in traveling circuses to suffer from poor nutrition. The food that bears, tigers and other animals receive is often based on economic rather than nutritional requirements.
Primate Products, a laboratory animal supplier in Immokalee, has filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in an attempt to prevent the release of health certificates and other records its claims contain “trade secrets.” Curiously, in the lawsuit Primate Products claims that it first learned the department was keeping copies of the certificates in December 2014. That was the month that ARFF released our latest summary of Primate Products customers, which we compiled from records received from the Department of Agriculture in response to a public records request. It is curious because ARFF released similar summaries in 2013, 2012 and 2011. (ARFF is not mentioned in the lawsuit.)
We hope that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will vigorously defend itself against Primate Products’ lawsuit, and defend the public’s right of access to governmental records.
For many years, ARFF has called for the retirement of Cora, an Asian elephant owned by Bill Morris of Gibsonton, Florida. ARFF believes that Cora is over 60 years old. She may be the oldest elephant still traveling and performing in the country. The below photo is of Cora at this year’s Collier County Fair in Naples. The fair ended on Sunday, March 27. According to reports, Bill Morris died on Sunday. It is not known what his death will mean for Cora.
Two Shrine temples in Florida that have sponsored annual circuses for many, many years are responding to declining membership and revenues by putting their properties up for sale. Orlando’s Bahia Shriners and the Amara Shriners of Palm Beach Gardens have both listed their building and property for sale.
The Bahia Shriners have come to the conclusion that their building is too big. A resolution adopted in November explained, “The membership has declined over the years and the dues cannot support the operations of the building.” The potential sale of the Amara Shriners’ large grass lot next to their temple building is especially encouraging, since the lot was used each year by the circus to set up its big top. ARFF is hopeful that the temple will not host a circus in 2016.
The fraternal organization needs to improve its image and attract new members. Getting rid of cruel animal circuses would be a good step toward turning around a struggling organization.
For Immediate Release: January 8, 2016
(Miami) – Activists with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) will work to educate the public about the cruelty of the circus on opening night of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Miami. A large turnout is expected. To coincide with ARFF’s protests, advertisements on 20 local taxi cabs will draw attention to Ringling’s cruel training of baby elephants.
WHAT: Circus protest
WHEN: Friday, January 8, beginning at 6:00pm
WHERE: American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
In March 2015, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it would retire its elephants from circus performances by 2018. ARFF is calling for Ringling to immediately retire its elephants and to eliminate ALL animal acts.
“Ringling Bros. has recognized that the public is turning away from cruel animal acts,” said ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. “Unfortunately, Ringling Bros. is delaying taking elephants off the road until 2018 and will continue to transport elephants, tigers and other wild animals thousands of miles chained in boxcars and stuffed inside transport cages, and to force animals to perform unnatural tricks on demand.”
Ringling Bros. has a long history of poor animal care. In 2011, Ringling Bros. paid a $270,000 fine to the USDA to settle allegations that it violated animal welfare laws in its handling of elephants, tigers and other animals. The fine was the largest ever against a circus! The alleged violations include elephants forced to perform when they were sick.
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This week The Florida Times-Union profiled the St. Augustine Wild Reserve, a nonprofit wildlife sanctuary. Its founder Deborah Warrick spoke to the paper about two male ligers, who arrived at the sanctuary from The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.). “They were no longer needed for the shows, so they gave them to us,” Warrick said.
T.I.G.E.R.S., which produces exploitive animal shows at Jungle Island in Miami, is known for its irresponsible breeding of animals such as white tigers and “ligers” (tiger/lion hybrids). In 2014 they made a big deal about the birth of a litter of ligers. Sadly, it appears that once the animals got too large to be used in money-making shows and photo-ops, they were discarded.
Warrick also mentioned the health problems that many hybrid big cats suffer from: “You can see when they walk that they have bad hips. It’s just not a good thing to do, to produce a hybrid like this.”
On September 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a routine inspection at Animal Adventures, a private zoo in Okeechobee. The inspector found shocking violations of federal regulations:
- An adult lion with a life threatening medical condition (pyometra) was not seen by a veterinarian. The lion’s condition deteriorated and she was euthanized by a gunshot to the head. The USDA cited Animal Adventures for inadequate veterinary care for failing to have the lion examined and her condition treated. The facility was also cited for using a firearm, when “other more acceptable methods are available.” Gunshot can be a humane method of euthanasia, but only if performed by well trained and experienced personnel with an appropriate firearm.
- A female tiger cub was found injured on the morning of August 28. The veterinarian, via telephone, prescribed medications but the cub’s health deteriorated and she died later that day. Again, Animal Adventures was cited for inadequate veterinary care for failing to have the cub examined and treated by a veterinarian.
- A solitary brown lemur was found housed inside a barn without being able to see or hear any other animal. “When first observed,” the USDA inspector wrote, “this animal was doing repetitive backflips which could be indicative of psychological distress.”
- The USDA inspector also reported that a red fox was suffering from a serious eye condition that was not being treated, and that shelters for bobcats, tigers and bears were badly damaged and hazardous to the animals.
These are only the latest in a long list of animal deaths and other problems at Animal Adventures. In 2013, Animal Adventures agreed to pay a $4,107 fine to settle allegations that it violated the Animal Welfare Act.
The Cole Bros. Circus will perform in Port St. Lucie, November 5-8.
The City of Port St. Lucie and St. Lucie County require circuses to have a veterinarian on duty. Local veterinarian Dr. Enrique Borrego is once again acting as the circus’ veterinarian. Please contact Dr. Borrego and politely urge him to reconsider acting as the circus vet. Without a veterinarian willing to help the circus meet the permit requirements, the circus could not perform in St. Lucie County. Contact:
Enrique Borrego, DVM
Animal General Hospital
501 SW Port St. Lucie Blvd.
Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Phone: (772) 344-8835
Online comment form.
Post a comment on Facebook.
Ask Dr. Borrego if he approves of the treatment of elephants, tigers and other animals in traveling circuses? Urge him to visit ARFF’s website to learn more about the Cole Bros. Circus’ horrible history. Problems in recent years have included: failure to provide necessary veterinary care, cruel treatment of an elephant, inexperienced animal handlers, and violating the Endangered Species Act! Let Dr. Borrego know that you don’t support businesses that support cruel circuses.
*Please share with ARFF any responses that you receive.