Elephant Escape From Circus Spurs Federal Complaint

In Defense of Animals urges action to protect elephant and public from harm

San Rafael, Calif. – In Defense of Animals (IDA) filed a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over an incident in which an elephant named Viola temporarily escaped from the Cole Bros. Circus in Lynchburg, Virginia, and was injured after a fall.

“In Defense of Animals is calling on the USDA to immediately bar Cole Bros. Circus from using Viola for performances or giving rides until this matter can be fully investigated and her health status evaluated,” said Catherine Doyle, IDA elephant campaign director. “It is a matter of both public safety and animal welfare. The USDA should not allow such an easily startled elephant to perform or be in contact with the public as she is likely to escape again, with potentially disastrous consequences.”

Viola reportedly was startled by a rabbit and ran past customers waiting to purchase tickets on Tuesday evening, ignoring her handler’s commands. She was completely out of control and it is just luck that no people were injured or killed. Viola fell down a steep embankment and injured her shoulder and foot. It took nearly 30 minutes to bring her back under control.

Such events are not rare. Last fall, an elephant with a history of breaking loose escaped her handlers and was struck and injured by an SUV. Just a few weeks ago, an elephant killed her handler at a Pennsylvania Shrine Circus. Since 1990, at least 14 human deaths and more than 120 human injuries have been attributed to elephants.

In one incident shown on television worldwide, the elephant Tyke, while performing for a circus in Hawaii, killed her trainer and gored her groomer before hundreds of horrified spectators. Tyke bolted from the arena and ran through city streets for more than thirty minutes. Police fired 86 shots at Tyke, who eventually collapsed and died. A similar incident occurred at a circus in Palm Bay, Florida, involving the elephant Janet, who was carrying people on her back at the time. Viola is also used to give rides.

“Elephants performing and giving rides in the circus are wild animals under incredible stress due to brutal training and harsh, completely unnatural living conditions,” said Doyle. “This dangerous incident is yet another reminder of why elephants should not be in circuses.”

Though elephants in the wild walk miles a day, in circuses they spend their lives in chains and the tight confinement of trucks and trains while transported around the country. Training is violent, relying on fear and physical punishment imposed with the bullhook, a steel-tipped weapon similar to a fireplace poker that is used to prod, stab, strike and threaten elephants.

The Cole Bros. Circus will perform next in Winchester, Virginia.

A copy of IDA’s complaint to the USDA is available upon request. For more information, visit www.HelpElephants.com.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 29, 2010

Contact: Catherine Doyle, 323-301-5730, zoos@idausa.org
Deborah Robinson, 860-836-7761, circuses@idausa.org

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif. dedicated to protecting animals' rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in Mumbai, India, Cameroon, Africa, and rural Mississippi. _________________________________________________________________________________

IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS • 3010 KERNER BLVD. • SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 • 415-448-0048

7 Comments on “Elephant Escape From Circus Spurs Federal Complaint”

  • Heather Hamza wrote on 2 May, 2010, 10:05

    These magnificent creatures need to go to a SANCTUARY. I still CANNOT BELIEVE that despite OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE, elephants are kept in captivity and made to perform stupid tricks. I do not feel bad for the torturers/ trainers who are injured or killed. They deserve it.

  • Maricarmen Casabella wrote on 7 May, 2010, 11:25

    LOS ANIMALES NO DEBEN SER UTILIZADOS EN LOS CIRCOS….. EL HUMANO LES MALTRATA, ATROZMENTE, CON LO CUAL, A DIVERTIR A LOS NIÑOS CON PAYASOS, MALABARISTAS, BAILARINES ETC, HAY MUCHAS OPCIONES PARA EL CIRCO QUE NO SEA LA DE LOS ANIMALES… NI UNA JAULA MAS CON ANIMALES….. BASTA ES BASTA !!!!!

  • Cinzia wrote on 13 May, 2010, 14:39

    Viola, I am so sorry for you!
    You are living a miserable life in circus spending yours and all the other elephant lives in chains and the tight confinement of trucks and trains while transported around the country. Remember readers that training is violent, relying on fear and physical punishment imposed with the bullhook. The Cole Bros. Circus will perform next in Winchester, Virginia. DON’T GO TO CIRCUSES! PLEASE!

  • Bruce wrote on 19 May, 2010, 9:55

    These magnificent creatures need to go to a SANCTUARY. I still CANNOT BELIEVE that despite OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE, elephants are kept in captivity and made to perform stupid tricks. I do not feel bad for the torturers/ trainers who are injured or killed. They deserve it.

  • Kim Hogan wrote on 11 June, 2010, 21:09

    VIOLA … I hate what has been happening to you all these years. And now, I wonder where in the world you are? How is your shoulder? How is your leg? I think of you and weep, imagining what cruel things men do to you to get you to perform.
    I hope you will turn up soon. I don’t know where Nina is either. Libby is working in Florida somewhere, it seems.
    I really HATE circuses and zoos. I hate that despicable people do dispicable things to you. You deserve so much more. I hope and pray for you to be able to retire at The Elephant Sanctuary or PAWS. If you were in Tennessee, I would definitely come visit you.
    I love you and ask God to do some miraculous thing through the hearts, minds and power of kind-hearted people.

  • karen wrote on 26 June, 2010, 13:00

    when will man learn that we do not have the right to destroy these beautiful animals. who gave us the right. shame on all who go to circuses and shame on those who abuse these beautiful animals

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