Practical Issues > Animals for Entertainment > Circuses

Protest Against Beatty Circus

Please compliment the writer and the paper for writing/publishing this thorough and honest article. The Writer's e-mail address is The e-mail address of the editor-in -chief is

The e-mail for letters to the ed. is listed at the end of the article.

 By the way, the Clyde Beatty Clown, who was convicted of molestation, is scheduled for a court appearance today in Long Island, NY.  (I assume that this appearance is for his sentencing).

 This is the info:

 Bayer , Christopher G. for case number R2938-99 is WED DEC 05, 2001 in Part 10 before Hon. J. Mullin at the Suffolk County County Court.

 This court appearance can be an opportunity to submit letters to the ed. to your local paper about the true dark side of Clyde Beatty/circuses.

Circus brings a troubled past Circus has been cited over safety, standards posted 12/01/01 By CHRIS GRIER

 BRADENTON -- The Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus, performing this weekend at the DeSoto Square mall, bills itself as good, clean family fun, "presented in a reputable manner by reputable people."

State and federal records tell another side of the story, including years of animal mishandling and abuse. Cole Brothers animals have injured, even killed bystanders over the years, with no penalty to the circus.

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service licenses and regulates businesses that handle exotic animals. Its inspectors have cited dozens of circuses, including Cole Brothers, for failing to meet the minimum standards set by the federal Animal Welfare Act.

 In some of the worst charges ever leveled by the federal agency, the USDA cited the circus in 1998 for two incidents in which handlers wounded several elephants with metal bullhooks. A $10,000 fine was held in abeyance when the circus agreed to earmark that money for an elephant consultant.

 In an interview this week, Cole Brothers spokesperson Renee Storey said its complete inspection history casts the circus in a favorable light.

 She chalked up complaints about the circus to animal-rights activists.

 "Their philosophy is that no animal should be used for any purpose. I don't think most people agree with that," Storey said. "As far as the USDA is concerned, we have a terrific record."

 It is one of three circuses where elephants have killed bystanders, according to records.

 A Cole Brothers elephant crushed a woman in New London Conn., in 1985. In 1993, in New York state, a Cole elephant pinned a man against a trailer. Storey said neither victim was a circus patron, and the circus was not cited by either the USDA or local authorities.

 Animal-rights advocates, who have long criticized circuses for the way the animals are housed and treated, say USDA violations don't tell the whole story.

 USDA inspectors are spread thin -- 75 for the entire U.S. -- and the infrequent fines levied against the circuses do little to discourage abuse. The maximum fine for violating the Animals Welfare Act was raised last year to $2,750 from $2,500. The Act carries no criminal penalties.

 The USDA's policies also tilt inspections in favor of the circuses, animal advocates say. The USDA's own annual report shows that it measures the effectiveness of its inspection program by the number of license-holders in compliance with the law, not by the number of violations caught.

 News and police reports of circus mishaps and abuse provide a fuller picture.

 In 1992, two Cole Brothers tigers escaped during a performance for  2,000 circus-goers in Pennsylvania.

 Three years later, in York County, Pa., two elephants trashed a Sears Auto Center, crashing through a plate-glass window and causing $20,000 in damage.

 Two months after that, in Queens, N.Y., a half-dozen people were hospitalized after two Cole Brothers elephants went on a rampage. The elephants also crushed several cars in a parking lot.

 The circus was not cited on those occasions.

 Last year a USDA veterinarian found bullhook scars on two Cole Brothers elephants. One had a paralyzed tail from an accident in which she was thrown into the wall of a truck on a sudden stop.

 A Feb. 12 complaint about "inadequate control � and use of physical force" on an elephant was later determined to be unfounded by federal inspectors. Storey blamed that report on an anonymous complainant.

 The Cole circus has had other problems: This year, a teen-age circus assistant testified in a New York courtroom that the Cole Brothers' star clown molested him for six years.

 "Smiley the Clown," known to New York prosecutors as Christopher Bayer, 29, was found guilty in August of molesting the boy. Bayer no longer works for the circus.

 Founded in 1884 by William Washington Cole, it's one of the country's oldest circuses, and the biggest to still use the traditional three-ring setup under a big-top tent.

 Cole Brothers' modern history begins with John W. Pugh, who began performing as a child in 1948 as part of a trampoline act called "The Wallabys." Pugh bought the circus in 1982.

 The circus' first serious incident came a year later, in 1983, when a Cole Brothers elephant picked up a spectator and threw him to the ground, breaking his shoulder and ankle.

 Storey says that "public safety is of paramount importance" and that the circus has taken steps to ensure that such rampages and killings won't be repeated.

 Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow says some sheriff's deputies might provide security at the circus this weekend.

 To operate here, the circus needs only the temporary-use permit the county building department granted to erect the big-top tent in the mall parking lot..

 Though local authorities may require circuses to maintain security around dangerous animals -- big cats, primates, bears, elephants -- there are no uniform rules for doing so.

 Last year, the USDA drafted a rule requiring fencing around dangerous animals.

 Beginning in February 1998, the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service began a "risk-based" inspection system intended to allow more frequent and in-depth inspections of licensees shown to have problems.

 Source: Feedback
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