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Some Data on Circuses in the United States

Vital facts reflecting the usage of animals in circuses within the United States as well as a list of recent “incidents” involving those animals.

ADI estimates (conservatively) that there are currently around 300 exotic/wild animals with US circuses.

There are currently around 18 non-animal circuses (human-only performances).

City/county ordinances that restrict animals from traveling circuses:

Arkansas: Eureka Springs, Sherwood; California: Corona, Encinitas, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Los Angeles, Marin County, Oakland, Pasadena, Rohnert Park, Santa Ana, West Hollywood; Colorado: Boulder; Connecticut: Stamford; Florida: Clearwater, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Margate, Miami Beach, Pompano Beach, Tallahassee, Weston; Georgia: Fulton; Hawaii: Maui County; Idaho: Ketchum; Illinois: Collinsville; Indiana: Fort Wayne, St John, Kansas: Douglas County; Massachusetts: Braintree, Plymouth, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, Weymouth; Missouri: Richmond; New York: Greenburgh, Southampton; North Carolina: Orange County, Chapel Hill; Ohio; Oregon: Clatsop County;  South Carolina: Chester County; Aiken County,  Texas: Simonton; Vermont: Burlington; Washington: Port Townsend, Redmond;  Wisconsin: Dane County, Green Bay.

Recent incidents in the US demonstrate that travelling circuses pose a serious threat to public safety:

  • In April 2013, a tiger escaped during a crowded performance of the Isis Shrine Circus in Salina, Kansas. Circus staff were unable to immediately recapture the tiger which fled the main exhibition area. The Salina Journal reported a circus patron unexpectedly came face to face with the tiger, less than two feet away, upon entering an arena bathroom.
  • In February 2013, Three circus elephants from Hanneford Circus were left out in the cold after their trailer slid off the road and onto the snow-covered median while traveling along Interstate 70 in Indiana. The elephants were offloaded and stood huddled on the Interstate while their trailer was moved back onto the road.
  • In October & November, 2012 Within two months, a Cole Brothers Circus truck carrying elephants crashed in a ditch in Mississippi; the Jaws of Life were used to remove llamas, zebras and camels from the wreckage of Universoul Circus trailer on a highway in Georgia and chaos ensued when a camel escaped Ramos Brothers Circus in Glendale, CA and ran across four lanes of traffic.
  • In April 2012, in Cork, Ireland, an elephant trainer was crushed and later hospitalized for injuries incurred while trying to break up a fight between two elephants at the Courtney Brothers Circus. This potentially life threatening incident happened just days after an elephant named Baby escaped from the same circus and was videotaped running through a parking lot while circus staff tried in vain to stop her.
  • In February 2010, a zebra escaped from Ringling Brothers in Atlanta and ran into the city. Police had to chase it for 40 minutes until it was recaptured on a busy interstate. A few weeks later, the animal was euthanized. Two weeks earlier, during a pre-show at the same circus in South Carolina, an elephant broke through a main door and ran into the arena. It was reported that there were about 100 people on the floor.
  • April 27, 2010 / Lynchburg, Virginia: An elephant named Viola escaped from the Cole Bros. Circus. She bolted directly past a line of people waiting to buy tickets, sending some running toward the parking lot. Viola injured her shoulder and broke a toenail when she slid in the mud and fell into a steep ravine. She was on the loose for approximately 30 minutes.
  • April 9, 2010 / Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: An animal handler with the Hamid Circus was kicked and thrown about 20 feet by an African elephant named Dumbo at Irem Shrine Circus. The handler died at the scene from multiple traumatic injuries. The elephant had been leased from Joe Frisco’s Wonderful World of Animals.
  • On November 4, 2009, an elephant escaped from the Family Fun Circus in Enid, Oklahoma and was struck by an SUV on US Interstate 81.
  • February 6, 2010 / Columbia, South Carolina: According to The State, “A startled elephant took a wrong turn backstage and broke through the main prop door leading into the Colonial Life Arena during the afternoon pre-show for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus …. . . . About 100 spectators on the floor watching the pre-show saw the elephant break through the door toward them and rumble around the performance area, just a few feet away.”
  • March 7, 2009 / Indianapolis, Indiana: At least 15 children and one adult were injured when an elephant who was being used to give rides at the Murat Shrine Circus became startled, stumbling and knocking over the scaffolding stairway leading to the elephant ride. People on the elephant’s back and others standing on, under, and around the scaffolding were injured. Their injuries were treated on the scene. The Shriners had leased the elephant from exhibitor Will Davenport, dba Maximus Tons of Fun.
  • March 13, 2009 / Fruitland Park, Florida: A spider monkey named Reggie escaped from the Liebling Family Circus.
  • In March 2008, three zebras with Ringling Brothers Circus in Baltimore escaped from their temporary enclosure and ran onto the traffic lanes.
  • A lifelong animal trainer was clawed by a tiger during a performance at Hadi Shrine Circus in Indiana in November 2006. The trainer suffered serious injuries to his hand and leg.