Protesters fight for fair animal treatment at local circus

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - An animal rights organization protests a traveling circus that is in town Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

PETA, an organization that fights for animal rights stood outside circus grounds Tuesday in an effort to raise awareness on animal abuse. A representative for the PETA organization said the Cole Brother's Circus treats its animals inhumanely.

"What I want people to learn is what I learned when I saw some of these videos and see the different barbaric and medieval tools- the bull hooks, the electric prods the blow torches, the whips, the chains the ropes that they use to get these poor animals to submit to them," PETA Representative Selina Anastasio said.

According to documents released to WMBF News by PETA, the USDA ordered Cole Bros. and its owner to pay a $15,000 civil penalty to settle numerous Animal Welfare Act violations.

Cole Bros. Ringmaster Chris Connors said claims made by PETA are untrue, and it's the children who enjoy the circus.

"Nothing against anybody, you should have your opinion. And also I feel, let the kids decide," Connors said.

Anastasio disagreed.

"I believe that if other people would see it especially children, that they would run and scream from the tents if they knew what was really knew what was going on under there," Anastasio said.

WMBF News crew witnessed elephants prior to the opening of the circus Tuesday, and did not see circus trainers using weapons on the animals. Connors said it's the animals that make the circus prosper.

"We're happy to bring the animals to the kids. We tried a year without any animals whatsoever except pony rides and the attendance went down and the people complained," Connors said.

Anastasio disagreed.

"Number one, that just shows how greed runs what they do. They don't care how animals feel. They don't choose to go into the circus, they don't volunteer to be kept in smaller cages than a federally required prison cell that we let our rapists and murderers have. We give them more freedoms than our poor animals."

The circus added an extra day this year because attendance was so high in 2011. Connors leaves it up to the community to decide if Cole Bros. treats its animals in a cruel manner.

"Come and see the Cole Brothers Circus. It's not what people think it is. It's the oldest form of entertainment," Connors said.

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