Buffalo, NY, considers ban on exotic animal acts
By BRIAN MEYER
News Staff Reporter
Former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus worker Archele Hundley shows the Common Council a bull hook used on elephants to dramatize how handlers are taught to keep the animals afraid.
A former employee of the nation’s largest traveling circus Tuesday claimed she witnessed vicious acts of animal cruelty and urged the Common Council to ban events in Buffalo that include exotic animal acts.
"The abuse was not once in a while, it occurred every day," Archele Hundley told lawmakers. "The elephants, horses and camels were hit, punched, beaten and whipped by everyone from the head of animal care down to inexperienced animal handlers hired out of homeless shelters."
The West Virginia woman claimed handlers are taught to keep the animals afraid.
But an executive with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus denied the allegations and submitted written testimony calling a ban "unnecessary and unjustified."
"We feel very strongly that our animal-care practices are second to none," Thomas L. Albert, the circus’ vice president of government relations and animal policy, told The Buffalo News in a telephone interview.
Albert challenged Hundley’s credibility, saying she only worked for Ringling Bros. for about two months last year. He also said that circus officials never heard Hundley’s claims until animal advocates started "trotting" her around the country.
Hundley called that claim a lie.
"When I voiced concerns to Ringling management about the animal abuse, I was either ignored or told, "If you don’t like it, pack your bags,’ " she insisted.
The Council’s Legislation Committee held the hearing after advocates lobbied for a law that would make Buffalo off-limits to circuses that use lions, elephants and other exotic animals. More than 20 municipalities across the nation already have imposed such bans, including Hollywood, Fla.
North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. will likely sponsor legislation proposing such a ban in Buffalo, and Majority Leader Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr. of the Niagara District said he might co-sponsor the bill.
Albert said animals remain the top attraction for a traveling circus, adding that Ringling Bros. is committed to making them feel "safe and secure." He said the circus has been coming to Buffalo since 1919, when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey combined their operations. He said he hopes Buffalo follows the lead of other municipalities that have rejected bans, including Denver.
Circuses help to reinforce the role that people play as caretakers of animals, Albert said.
The education argument was dismissed by Jennifer Radecki of Animal Advocates of Western New York. She said exhibiting elephants "dressed up and performing silly tricks" contributes nothing to people’s appreciation for animals.
Supporters of the ban claim animals in traveling circuses spend a lot of time in feces-filled boxcars or chained in arenas. They also downplayed the drawing power of animal acts.
"Banning exotic-animal acts would bring an end to the mistreatment that I witnessed on a daily basis but was powerless to stop," Hundley said.
Thanks for covering this important issue. Big cats belong in the wild and not in traveling acts or in back yards and basements. Besides being bad for the animals, it is very dangerous. The following is a partial listing (794) of incidents involving captive big cats since 1990. These incidents have resulted in the killing or deaths of 234 big cats, 68 human deaths, more than 242 human maulings, 213 exotic cat escapes and 363 confiscations. https://bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm
To see a video of the mauling of a zoo keeper in 2006 go to https://bigcatrescue.org/animal_contact.htm
The Journal of Internal Medicine in 2006 estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and as many as 78,000 have died. Read more about zoonotic diseases here:
To see the number of exotic cats abandoned each year go to https://bigcatrescue.org/animal_abuse.htm
To view a trend chart that shows the alarming escalation of big cat incidents here: https://bigcatrescue.org/Flash/BigCatBans/BigCatBanCharts.htm
The U.S. represents less than 5% of the entire global population, but 67% of ALL captive cat incidents occur in the U.S. Likewise, Florida represents less than 6% of the U.S. population while 13% of all U.S. incidents occur in Florida. California and Florida boast the most comprehensive sets of regulations allowing private ownership of exotic cats while ranking #3 and #1 respectively in the highest numbers of big cat killings, maulings and escapes. To view photos of fatal injuries from cases reported in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine click https://bigcatrescue.org/laws/AMJForensicFeline.pdf
This video shows 23 minutes of undercover videos taken at circuses, showing the beatings the animals take behind the scenes: https://bigcatrescue.org/abuse-issues/issues/circus/
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