Visiting circus fined for mistreating elephants

(Source: Cole's Bros. Circus
(Source: Cole's Bros. Circus

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) The Cole Bros. Circus, performing in Myrtle Beach from Sept 11th to 13th has agreed to pay $15,000 to settle formal charges regarding the mistreatment of two elephants.

The more than 10 charges that Cole Bros. settled with the USDA include failure to provide the elephants with adequate veterinary care and failure to hire personnel capable of caring for them.

The charges came after PETA pointed out that show elephants, Tina and Jewel, were hundreds of pounds underweight and had been deprived of adequate veterinary care, including a protruding spine. They were also sent to an unlicensed exhibitor with a long history of violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

In 2009, the USDA felt that the case was so serious that the agency confiscated Jewel and also removed Tina. However, Cole Bros. continue to use other elephants in old-fashioned circus acts, and PETA sent the USDA alarming video footage taken at Cole Bros.

Circus in Lanesboro, Mass., on June 17, 2011, that shows a handler who repeatedly struck an elephant using a bullhook (a rod with a solid, steel-pointed end that resembles a fireplace poker), including forcefully hitting the animal twice in the face.

Also in June of last year, the USDA cited an elephant exhibitor with Cole Bros. for multiple violations of the AWA, including the use of "excessive force while tugging at" an elephant by digging a bullhook into her flesh. Elephant trainer Tim Frisco, who was caught on camera viciously beating terrified elephants and shocking them with electric prods, just joined Cole Bros.

"The USDA's action against Cole Bros. should put all animal circuses on notice that, sooner or later, they must pay for animal abuse," says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. "Since children love animals, the last place that parents and grandparents should take them to is the circus."

The USDA's original complaint—filed after the USDA was contacted by PETA as well as by In Defense of Animals—and the settlement agreement are available upon request. For more information, please visit

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