Miami Beach bans bullhooks and electric prods!

For Immediate Release: May 21, 2014

(Miami Beach, FL) – Wednesday afternoon, May 21, the City of Miami Beach approved a ban on the use of bullhooks*, electric prods, bucking straps and other cruel devices. The ordinance also prohibits the constant chaining of elephants.

With the vote, Miami Beach joined compassionate cities like Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Lauderdale Lakes, Margate, Pompano Beach and Weston and will no longer tolerate the abuse of elephants, tigers and other captive circus animals by the use of devices that cause pain and suffering.

While Hollywood, Lauderdale Lakes and Weston have completely banned live animal displays, Hallandale Beach, Margate, Pompano Beach — and now the City of Miami Beach — have banned the use of bullhooks or similar devices that circus trainers commonly use against their unwilling performers.

“It is wrong to use pain and the fear of punishment to control elephants,” said ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. “Fortunately, an increasing number of zoos, scientists, trainers and animal welfare organizations condemn use of the bullhook in favor of safer and more humane elephant handling methods that rely on positive reinforcement only.”

*A bullhook is a weapon, resembling a fireplace poker, which is used to strike, hook, prod and intimidate elephants into obedience. Elephants are controlled through pain and the fear of punishment.

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New USPS circus stamps; animal activists offer alternative designs

For Immediate Release: May 5, 2014

(Sarasota, FL) – This morning, the U.S Postal Service will unveil a new series of stamps, “Vintage Circus Posters,” during a ceremony at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. The stamps reproduce eight posters featuring clowns, trapeze artists, stuntmen, and elephants and tigers. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, America’s largest circus, will participate in the first-day-of-issue ceremony.

The new stamps are unfortunately a celebration of the circus in America, when what is needed is an examination of how the circus was, and continues to be, horrible for animals. In response, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) has created alternative designs using images from the early 20th century circus. The three designs have been posted on ARFF’s facebook page:

How we remember the early American circus is important. Thankfully, the exploitation of people of color and those with physical abnormalities in circus sideshows has stopped. But elephants and other animals continue to suffer in traveling circuses.

“The designs are our attempt at a more honest telling of the history of the circus in America,” said ARFF Communications Director Don Anthony. “It is important not to forget the cruelty of the early American circus, because, sadly, not much has changed.”

One of ARFF’s designs features “Tusko,” an elephant who was captured in Thailand in the 1890s and shipped to New York. Not surprisingly, following years of mistreatment and being sold from circus to circus, Tusko developed a reputation for aggressiveness. Tusko was cruelly restrained at all times by an elaborate system of chains.

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Animal activists ask Miami-Dade County to add conditions to sale of The Miami Seaquarium

For Immediate Release: May 5, 2014

(Miami, FL) – Tomorrow (Tuesday, May 6), the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners will consider a resolution “authorizing and approving” the sale of the Miami Seaquarium to Festival Fun Parks.

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) is urging Miami-Dade County to add conditions to the sale that would benefit the Miami Seaquarium’s best-known resident, the orca “Lolita”.

In a letter to Mayor Gimenez and Commissioners, ARFF urged the County to explore releasing Lolita back into the waters of her birth. Marine mammal experts have proposed a plan in which Lolita would be transferred to a coastal sea pen in Washington State, and, once she re-learns the skills necessary for survival, be reunited with her family in the wild. If rehabilitation and release is not possible, ARFF recommended that the Miami Seaquarium and/or Festival Fun Parks be required to bring Lolita’s small tank up to current standards. The tank—just 35 feet wide by 80 feet long—has long been a focus of concern. The tank is the smallest for an orca in North America. ARFF believes that the tank does not meet the minimum dimensions required by the federal Animal Welfare Act.

“Lolita has suffered in the same barren tank at the Miami Seaquarium for close to 45 years,” said ARFF’s Communications Director Don Anthony. “The sale is an opportunity to demand that Lolita be released back into the waters of her birth, a request that has been repeatedly denied by the Seaquarium’s current owners.”

*A copy of ARFF’s letter is available upon request.

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The Florida black bear: safe from hunters for over 20 years

bear-xingWhen bears in Florida act aggressively or attack humans, as happened on April 12 when a woman was seriously injured by a bear outside her home in Lake Mary, the incidents are often linked to food. In the Lake Mary neighborhood where the attack occurred, bears were known to go through residents’ trash looking for food. A Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spokesman described the bears in the area as “food-conditioned” and said they had lost their fear of humans.

Rep. Mike Clelland, who represents Seminole County neighborhoods that have seen recent bear attacks, has suggested requiring residents to use bear-resistant garbage cans. We think this is a great idea. Using bear-resistant garbage cans, along with taking in bird seed and other food items overnight, is a proven effective method of reducing conflicts.

Unfortunately, last week, in a letter sent to the FWC, a group of state lawmakers– Representatives Ben Albritton, Frank Artiles, Halsey Beshears, Jim Boyd, Jason Brodeur, Matt Caldwell, Katie Edwards, Eric Eisnaugle, J.W. Grant, Doug Holder, Ritch Workman and Dana Young– called for a return to bear hunting.

Hunting does not reduce human-bear conflicts. Most conflicts occur in residential neighborhoods where hunting would not be allowed. Rep. Clelland, a voice of reason, explained to the Orlando Sentinel, “It’s not the number of bears that we’re most concerned about — it’s bears interacting with humans. The reason they’re interacting with humans is trash. We can solve that problem with bear-proof cans, not guns.”

Bears were last hunted in Florida in 1993. Although bear populations have increased since hunting was stopped, there are still only approx. 3,000 bears statewide. ARFF will continue to work to make sure bears in Florida remain safe from hunter’s bullets.