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.