ASPCA® Asks Court to Add Former Ringling Bros. Employees as Plaintiffs in Lawsuit Against “Greatest Show on Earth”

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Ex-Ringling workers provide eyewitness accounts of routine elephant abuse. Coincidentally, Judge also dismisses Ringling’s Motion for Permission to File Civil Rico lawsuit against ASPCA and other animal welfare groups.

The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, today announced that it is asking the Court to add three former Ringling Bros. employees as plaintiffs in its litigation, which details the routine abuse and neglect of Asian elephants. (CIV.NO.03-2006, Court: United States District Court for the District of Columbia)

Coincidentally, a lawsuit against the ASPCA and other animal welfare groups, reported today, was actually dismissed by a judge last week. Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed Ringling's motion for permission to file a Civil Rico claim against the plaintiffs, scolding the circus for "wast[ing] a considerable amount of time and resources of the Court and the groups by engaging in "dilatory" delay tactics over several years."

In the ASPCA’s lawsuit against Ringling Bros., owned by Feld Entertainment, the former employees, Archele Hundley of Charleston, W.V., and Margaret and Robert Tom Jr. of Murray, Ky., witnessed routine violent abuse and cruelty toward the elephants when they worked there. All three of the employees left Ringling Bros. in August 2006. Frequent hitting and striking of elephants with bull hooks was common, and dirt was often rubbed into sores of elephants to conceal their wounds. Elephants were often chained, forced to lie on concrete which resulted in sores, and scraped their backs when entering and exiting trains because openings in boxcars were too small.

Ms. Hundley, who cared for horses but frequently spent time with the elephants, quit the circus because “the animal abuse was too upsetting…and occurred every day.” She reported witnessing the beating of an elephant named Baby that lasted over 30 minutes and included the trainer hooking Baby both behind her ear and from inside her ear canal until she “bled profusely from inside the ear and behind the earflap.” Another elephant named Banana received no medication for arthritis, and another had a tear that went from her vagina to anus.

Mrs. Tom, who worked backstage, recalled a brutal beating of an elephant named Asia for defecating during a performance. Mr. Tom details instances where terrified elephants would urinate, defecate, trumpet and squeal as soon as they heard the voices of their handlers. During a three-day train ride from Massachusetts to Oklahoma, Ms. Hundley recalls that the elephants and horses were allowed outside only once, and two dump trucks were required to remove the massive accumulation of feces in the poorly ventilated boxcars.

All three individuals recall the chaining of elephants “whenever the public is not around.” High turnover among animal caretakers and the hiring of people with no prior animal care experience or training was also common, as was the lack of medical records for animals.

The ASPCA, along with three other non-profit animal welfare organizations, including The Fund for Animals (FFA), the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), and the Animal Protection Institute (API), are currently litigating the case under the federal Endangered Species Act against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and its parent company, Feld Entertainment. The groups are joined in the lawsuit by another former Ringling Bros. employee, Tom Rider, who worked as a barn man for the elephants for two-and-a-half years, and are represented by the public interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

(All information according to the lawsuit unless otherwise indicated.)

About the ASPCA®
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) was the first humane organization established in the Americas, and today has one million supporters. A 501 [c] [3] not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA provides local and national leadership in animal-assisted therapy, animal behavior, animal poison control, anti-cruelty, humane education, legislative services, and shelter outreach. The New York City headquarters houses a full-service, accredited animal hospital, adoption center, and mobile clinic outreach program. The Humane Law Enforcement department enforces New York’s animal cruelty laws and is featured on the reality television series “Animal Precinct” on Animal Planet. For more information, please visit http://www.aspca.org.

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Alison Zaccone
ASPCA
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Anita K. Edson

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