(Kissimmee) – If you donated to the upcoming Bahia Shriners Circus in response to a phone call, the organization you were trying to help will likely receive only a small portion of your money.
Apopka’s Bahia Shriners use a for-profit telemarketing firm to sell tickets and sponsorships for children with special needs to attend the Shriners Circus at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, May 4-5.
In 2016, the most recent year from which records are available, the Bahia Shriners raised $421,369 using telemarketers, but kept only $91,319, or 21% percent. The rest went to Etsell, Inc., a telemarketing company, according to the Bahia Shriners tax return.
“Donors would be shocked to learn that a telemarketing firm pockets 75 cents of every dollar given to support the Bahia Shriners Circus,” said Nick Atwood, Campaigns Coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF). “If you receive a call asking you to purchase tickets to send children to the upcoming Shrine Circus, you could ask the caller how much of your donation will actually go to the charity. But the best thing to do may be to just hang up.”
ARFF would also like to point out that the Shriners Circus doesn’t raise one penny for Shriners Hospitals. Circusgoers are often misled into believing that proceeds from the circus benefit hospitals. The Shriners Hospitals for Children is a legally and financially separate organization from local Shrine temples. The small print on Shrine circus tickets make it clear that proceeds from the circus fund temple activities, not the hospitals (tickets are not considered charitable contributions). The best way to help the Shriners Hospitals for Children is to donate directly to the hospital.
Last week, the Galleria at Fort Lauderdale announced that it is partnering with a company called SeaQuest to open an aquarium at the shopping mall in late 2018. According to a press release, the new aquarium will feature “hands-on encounters” with sharks, stingrays, capybara, otters, tortoises, and exotic birds. (photo: an animal rights protest outside SeaQuest’s aquarium in Las Vegas in April 2017)
SeaQuest CEO Vince Covino, and his brother Ammon, have a long history of legal problems and controversies surrounding animal care.
In April 2017 a former employee at SeaQuest Las Vegas came forward with disturbing reports about animals dying from neglect and mistreatment. The employee told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that at least 300 animals, including eels, stingrays and octopuses, died before the aquarium even opened. An aquarium operated by the brothers in Portland, Oregon also faced accusations of poor animal care and large numbers of animal deaths (the Portland Aquarium closed in 2016).
In early 2017, Vince Corvino was fined $5,000 by the State of Idaho for failing to disclose his history of securities industry violations to potential investors in new SeaQuest aquariums (Covino’s registration as a securities broker-dealer was suspended in 2011).
In December 2013, Ammon Covino was sentenced to one year in federal prison for conspiring to purchase protected species of rays and sharks illegally captured in the Florida Keys for display at an aquarium operated by the Covino brothers. Ammon Covino was sent back to prison in 2015 for violating the terms of his release after he was found to be involved in the opening of the SeaQuest aquariums in Nevada and Utah.
The majority of saltwater fish and invertebrates found in aquariums are captured in the wild because they are difficult to breed in captivity. The collection of large numbers of fish and other animals for the aquarium trade is harmful to the reef ecosystem.
The touch tanks and other ‘hands-on encounters’ planned for SeaQuest Fort Lauderdale put animals and people at risk. Touch tanks in which animals are unable to escape constant harassment from people can severly stress the animals. Bacteria introduced to touch tank water by human hands can be harmful to animals. (Children have also developed bacterial infections after handling animals in touch tanks.)
You Can Help
The Galleria mall is steps away from a state park and the Atlantic Ocean, and a short drive from the Everglades. Instead of exploiting captive animals for profit, the Galleria mall should be celebrating the unique natural areas in its own backyard, where animals can be observed in their natural habitats. Please contact the Galleria and urge them to reconsider the addition of an aquarium at the mall:
This November, voters in Florida will have an historic opportunity to help thousands of greyhounds by voting Yes on Amendment 13! The amendment would phase out dog racing in Florida by 2020.
The abuse and neglect of greyhounds is common at dog tracks in Florida. Racing greyhounds live in inhumane conditions. On average, a greyhound dies at a Florida racetrack every three days! Many more are injured.
There are only 17 greyhound racing tracks in the country. 11 of them are in Florida. To win this important campaign, we need to educate millions of voters about the cruelty of greyhound racing. Visit www.ProtectDogs.com to learn more about Amendment 13 and how you can help to spread the word.
Are you ready to vote in Florida? Use this link to register to vote, check your voter status, or to make changes to your existing registration: https://registertovoteflorida.gov
(Silver Springs, FL) — A new study of the potential dangers of wild monkeys living in Silver Springs State Park, and the resulting media coverage, was unnecessarily alarmist and overstated the dangers of herpes B virus transmission from monkeys to humans. That is the conclusion of a veterinarian with decades of experience working with primates, after reviewing the study.
“I do not agree that the Silver Springs rhesus macaques pose a serious threat to human health and safety,” said Nedim Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California-Davis, in a statement. “There was no need to alarm the public about the rhesus macaque situation and calls to eradicate the monkeys are misguided and irresponsible in my view.”
In his statement, Dr. Buyukmihci suggests that any effort to trap and remove the monkeys in the park may make the problem worse: “the stress of being hunted is likely to be counterproductive in that monkeys with latent infections may become infectious due to stress.”
The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) is calling on the Florida Park Service and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to halt any plans to use lethal methods to reduce the monkey population in Silver Springs State Park.
“The new study is an important reminder that the monkeys who live along the Silver River are wild animals, and like all wild animals, can be dangerous. But the study does not make the case for lethal control of the monkeys in Silver Springs State Park,” said Nick Atwood, ARFF Campaigns Coordinator. “The best way to protect the public from potential harm is to improve public education about the need to avoid interactions with monkeys in the park, and to strictly enforce rules against feeding or harassing monkeys.”
In October 2013, after two years of campaigning, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida celebrated when the Florida Park Service announced that it would no longer allow a trapper to remove wild monkeys from Silver Springs State Park for sale to laboratories. (Between 1998-2012, approx. 800 monkeys were trapped and removed.) At the time, the Florida Park Service said that it would explore alternative methods of reducing the monkey population at the park.
On Sunday, November 19 a large crowd gathered outside the roadside zoo Monkey Jungle in Miami to demand a better life for the animals there.
For 28 years, “King” the gorilla has lived a cruel, solitary existence at Monkey Jungle. “Mei,” the only orangutan at Monkey Jungle, is confined to a barren, concrete enclosure when on exhibit (her off-exhibit cage is even worse). In a story that made headlines in early November, four former employees revealed that monkeys and birds at Monkey Jungle are also suffering from neglect and abuse. Photos taken by a former employee show filthy living conditions for the animals at Monkey Jungle (click here and here to read the Miami Herald’s reporting about the former employees allegations).
It is clear that Monkey Jungle is unable to provide the care that animals deserve.
In 1997, a campaign was launched to persuade Monkey Jungle to send King to Zoo Atlanta, where he could be with other gorillas. Zoo Atlanta has had success in rehabilitating previously solitary gorillas and transitioning them into a gorilla family. But despite Zoo Atlanta’s invitation and pleas from noted primatologist Jane Goodall, TV personality Bob Barker, and thousands of Florida residents, Monkey Jungle has refused. Gorillas and other apes are intelligent animals with complex social and emotional lives. Gorillas are best-off when they are in social situations. King needs companions and this continued solitary confinement is cruel and psychologically damaging. Read our previous post about King here.
You Can Help
You can help by asking Monkey Jungle to transfer King and Mei, at the very least, to a reputable sanctuary or zoo where they could receive proper care and live out the remainder of their lives with companionship and dignity. Write to:
The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking for an immediate investigation of Monkey Jungle. ARFF believes that the conditions depicted in the photos violates federal Animal Welfare Act regulations. Please contact the USDA and ask that they investigate Monkey Jungle and ensure that it provides animals with adequate veterinary care, and that the animals there are housed in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act. Urge the USDA to hold Monkey Jungle fully accountable for any violations discovered during its investigation.
United States Department of Agriculture
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
(Daytona Beach) — An eye-catching mobile billboard in Daytona Beach will urge Shriners to replace animal circuses with alternative fundraisers.
The billboard, sponsored by the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF), features an image of a circus elephant in chains and boldly declares “Animals don’t belong in the circus” and “Shriners, please end your support of cruel circuses.”
The billboard truck will circulate in Daytona Beach on Tuesday, July 11 from 11:00am until 7:00pm, the start of the Shriners parade along A1A.
The Imperial Session, the annual convention of Shriners International, will be held in Daytona Beach from July 9-13. More than 100 Shriners International temples (chapters) in the U.S. will sponsor circuses in 2017. Shrine temples partner with circuses that have poor records of animal abuse and neglect.
“There is growing awareness and concern about the treatment of elephants and other animals in the circus,” said ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. “Unfortunately, the Shrine Circus is resisting change and continues to support cruel circuses.”
Shriners have been associated with circuses for a long time, but change is possible. Several Shrine temples have replaced long-running circuses with equally profitable alternatives, such as golf tournaments, car shows, festivals, or animal-free circuses.
A photo of the mobile billboard is available upon request.
(Kissimmee) — The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) has released disturbing video taken during the Bahia Shrine Circus at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee on Saturday, May 6.
In the video— available here: https://youtu.be/QNBthmtroZg— circus workers violently jab a tiger with sticks after the animal refuses to perform.
“This weekend, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will hold its final performance,” said ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. “Ringling Bros. recognized that the public is turning away from cruel animal acts. Unfortunately, Shrine Circuses are resisting change and continue to transport tigers thousands of miles stuffed inside transport cages, and to force these magnificent animals to perform unnatural tricks on demand.”
Violent, physical abuse remains a common method of training and controlling animals in the circus.
ARFF activists protested outside all of the Shrine Circus performances in Kissimmee, May 6-7.
Orlando’s Bahia Shriners hired the Royal Hanneford Circus to be their 2017 “Shrine Circus.” The Royal Hanneford Circus has a long and sordid record of poor animal care and dangerous animal rampages. In November 2016, the circus agreed to pay a $7,000 fine to settle a federal complaint related to two incidents that put both animals and the public at risk.
(Tallahassee, FL) — In today’s Tallahassee Democrat, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) is running an advertisement urging Governor Rick Scott to appoint a nature photographer, a birdwatcher, or an individual with a background in wildlife conservation, to fill the next vacancy on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Today’s ad also ran in Sunday and Monday’s papers, and will run on Thursday as well, the final day of an FWC meeting in the town of Havana, north of Tallahassee.
The ad features an image of a black bear under the headline, “Florida’s wildlife belongs to all Floridians”. At this week’s meeting, the FWC will once again discuss bear management. In 2015, the FWC approved a black bear hunt despite strong public opposition. It was the first bear hunting season in Florida in 21 years.
“It is time that the FWC has a Commissioner who represents nature photographers, birders, hikers and other ‘non-consumptive’ users of Florida’s fish and wildlife,” said Don Anthony, ARFF’s Communications Director. “Most residents of Florida are not hunters, yet the FWC has long been dominated by individuals with a hunting background.”
Nature photography, along with birdwatching, hiking, canoeing and kayaking are the fastest-growing outdoor activities in America. According to the FWC’s own numbers, “wildlife viewing” has a much greater economic impact in Florida than hunting. The appointment of a photographer, birder, or wildlife advocate would add an important perspective to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
On hundreds of occasions over many years, Philip Lloyd and his company BioChemed Services exported blood products of monkeys* and other animals to biotech companies around the world, but fraudulently labeled the packages as containing human blood to avoid the attention of government inspectors. His actions made him a lot of money, but in the words of prosecutors, posed “a significant public health threat” and “risked the safety of the world’s supply of human blood” (monkeys can carry viruses and diseases that can be transmitted to humans).
In November 2016, Lloyd pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to mislabel wildlife products intended for foreign commerce.” Last week, in U.S. district court in Virginia, he was sentenced to 4 months in jail and a $250,000 fine.
Prior to sentencing, the judge received a letter seeking leniency for Lloyd from Michael Disbrow, who described Lloyd as a friend. Disbrow is senior director of “Nonhuman Primate Operations” for PreLabs, a company that operates a monkey quarantine/research facility in Hendry County. Disbrow and Lloyd are also partners in a Florida corporation called Flava Partners, LLC.
It is shocking that an executive of a research organization in Florida apparently has no qualms about being business partners with an individual who so flagrantly broke laws designed to protect human health.
*BioChemed has purchased blood from Florida’s Primate Products and other corporations that import and breed monkeys for use in research and testing
When the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took its elephants off the road in May 2016, animal advocates cheered. Other Florida-based circuses saw the move as a marketing opportunity.
The Garden Bros. Circus advertised its 2016 tour as, “Last chance to see elephants live!” Apparently, the gimmick worked because they are using the tagline again this year.
On ticket coupons, Circus Pages teases, “May be the last chance to see performing elephants!”
Another Florida circus, the Stardust Circus, is using a similar line this year in its advertisements, “Come see one of the last performing circus elephants.”
We don’t believe any of these circuses will stop elephant acts, unless they have to. The end of elephants in the circus will come about due to the passage of local ordinances and state laws restricting the use of wild animals in the circus, and because the public– increasingly aware of the suffering of animals in traveling circuses– refuses to purchase tickets to circuses featuring animal acts.