UPDATE: Animal rights group protests circus in Chilliwack

No elephants on the B.C. tour but Vancouver Humane Society still wants show cancelled

The circus is coming to town but some people don’t think it should.

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) started a petition this week directed at Mayor Sharon Gaetz to cancel the Oct. 22 performance of the Garden Brothers Circus at Prospera Centre.

The VHS campaign is similarly targeting the mayors of Vernon and Kamloops, the other two B.C. cities on the tour.

While city hall was targeted, elephants would not be allowed in Chilliwack anyway. A 1999 bylaw in the City of Chilliwack forbids public performances involving a long list of wild or exotic animals.

And while the circus tour will apparently only feature dogs and ponies in B.C., allegations of poor treatment of elephants in the past in the U.S. triggered the VHS campaign.

A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) press release in September said a former Garden Bros. employee reported to the U.S. animal rights organization that elephants in its care “…were electrically shocked backstage and left dripping blood from wounds inflicted by bullhooks…”

PETA said the employee also said a camel in the circus was kicked, punched and whipped.

“Clearly, this circus has a record that should ring alarm bells with the venues where it is scheduled to appear,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker. “All of its performances should be cancelled.”

For its part, the Garden Bros. Circus responded by saying they contract with reputable licensed animal acts to tour with the circus.

“As required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all of the animals are inspected and checked by a licensed veterinarian every month to ensure their well being and welfare are kept to the highest standards,” said Jim Davis, director of booking. “If at any time the vet finds anything out of the ordinary or medical issue it is immediately reported to the USDA. We have had clear reports and no issues.”

Davis added that animal rights groups have been invited to visit where the animals are housed and they have not taken up the offer.

“The American circus is the oldest form of live entertainment that brings families together to enjoy the majesty and intelligence of the performing animals along with human entertainment.”

Mayor Gaetz said the city has received letters based on the VHS petition, but she pointed out that Prospera Centre is not managed by the city. The Chiefs Development Group has the contract, and city hall is unable to dictate policy regarding what groups rent the facility.

She added that the city does not condone animal abuse.

”Animal abuse can happen in any community, and we are thankful that the BC SPCA swiftly and thoroughly conducts investigations throughout our province when incidents occur,” Gaetz said Friday.

– with files from Richard Rolke, Vernon Morning Star


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