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USDA News Release No. 0494.11

USDA and Feld Entertainment, Inc., Reach Settlement Agreement

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2011—The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Feld Entertainment, Inc., doing business as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Feld), have reached a settlement agreement in which Feld has paid a civil penalty of $270,000 for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) dating from June 2007 to August 2011.

"This settlement sends a direct message to the public and to those who exhibit animals that USDA will take all necessary steps to protect animals regulated under the Animal Welfare Act," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "The civil penalty and other stipulations in the settlement agreement will promote a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all exhibitors in maintaining and caring for animals under their care."

USDA is authorized to assess a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each AWA violation occurring after June 2008. In addition to paying the $270,000 civil penalty, the largest assessed against an exhibitor under the AWA, Feld waived the opportunity for a hearing and agreed to develop and implement annual AWA compliance training for all employees who work with and handle animals, including trainers, handlers, attendants and veterinarians starting March 31, 2012, and to establish an AWA compliance position on its staff by February 28, 2012. All Feld employees who will work with and handle animals must complete the training within 30 days of when they are hired.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is a multi-faceted Agency with a broad mission area that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the AWA, and carrying out wildlife damage management activities. These efforts support the overall mission of USDA.

One of APHIS' core missions is to ensure the welfare of the animals it regulates under the AWA. The AWA sets forth humane standards for care and treatment of animals that are exhibited to the public. APHIS veterinarians, animal care inspectors and investigators are deeply committed to making sure that all USDA licensed exhibitors provide their animals with proper veterinary care, water, a balanced diet of wholesome food, clean and structurally sound housing that affords enough space for the animals to move comfortably, and protection from extremes in temperature and weather.

To ensure that its licensees are meeting federal standards, APHIS inspectors conduct routine, unannounced inspections of all licensed facilities. The non-compliances resolved through this settlement agreement were discovered through APHIS inspections and investigations, as well as public complaints that were submitted to the agency.

A copy of the full settlement agreement can be found at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/downloads/FEI_signed_agreement.pdf.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

ANIMAL DEFENDERS INTERNATIONAL TO CONGRESS: SETTLEMENT BETWEEN USDA AND FELD ENTERTAINMENT UNDERLINES NEED FOR FEDERAL LEGISLATION TO PROTECT CIRCUS ANIMALS

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2011Animal Defenders International (ADI), a leading global animal protection group, is asking members of the House Committee on Agriculture to host a hearing for H.R. 3359, The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, a recently introduced bill that aims to protect wild animals in traveling circuses, in light of the just-announced $270.000 settlement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Feld Entertainment, Inc., (doing business as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (Feld)). The USDA and Feld have reached a settlement agreement in which Feld has paid a civil penalty of $270,000 for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) dating from June 2007 to August 2011.

"We are delighted to see the USDA taking firm action against Ringling and sending this clear message to other USDA licensed circuses and exhibitors. The fact that Ringling Bros. Circus has had non-compliances of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) dating back at least four years to warrant this unprecedented punitive settlement, is a clear indication for the need to pass federal legislation to protect wild animals in traveling circuses,” responded Matt Rossell, Animal Defenders International’s Campaigns Director. “ADI applauds the foresight of Representative Jim Moran (D-Va) who saw the need for circus animal protection and took immediate action with his recent introduction of H.R.3359, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act."

"We look forward to reviewing the details behind the specific violations of law, and the new ‘AWA compliance training’ being implemented by the USDA, including the establishment of an ‘AWA compliance position’ on the circus staff. However, ADI is concerned that the USDA should not be implementing anything that may allow the U.S. circus industry to self-regulate. Considering Ringling’s apparent poor track record of compliance that led to this largest-ever settlement assessed against an exhibitor in the history of the AWA, it seems clear they are unable to be trusted to police themselves."

ADI recently made history by unveiling the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, H.R. 3359, the first-ever federal bid which aims to protect all wild and exotic animals forced to travel and perform in US circuses. Bob Barker and Jorja Fox joined Animal Defenders International (ADI) and the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) at a Nov. 2nd Capitol Hill news conference to introduce the ground breaking legislation along with lead sponsor Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA). The bill has bipartisan support, carried by Congressman Moran and ranking Republican Congressman Bill Young (R-FL) and a total of 10 original sponsors. The bill will effectively end the use of wild animals in traveling circuses in the United States, and is due to be discussed in the Agriculture Committee.

Announcing the Bill at a launch in the Rayburn Building, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) stated: “Based upon the publicly available research and video and photographic evidence, it is clear that traveling circuses cannot provide the proper living conditions for these exotic animals. That is why this legislation is intended to target just the most egregious circumstances involving exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses. It is not intended to affect zoos, aquariums, horse racing, rodeos, or permanent facilities where animals travel out for film, television or advertising work.

"Keeping elephants in chains, confining wild animals like lions and tigers in small cages, and forcing them to perform unnatural tricks for the sole purpose of human amusement is increasingly difficult to justify the more we learn about these intelligent, social creatures."

This is the first bill to comprehensively tackle the use of all wild animals in circuses ever to be launched in the U.S. The Bill will end the keeping of animals for extended periods in temporary facilities, the cruel training and control methods employed by circuses and address public safety issues. It will not impact zoos or other static facilities with captive wildlife.

For more than 18 years, ADI has effectively produced overwhelming evidence of suffering of animals in circuses as a result of extreme confinement, the constant traveling nature of these shows, and cruel training practices. ADI’s groundbreaking two-year undercover investigation on circus cruelty shocked the world, resulting in major changes in the U.S., South America and European countries.

Courts in many countries have used ADI’s evidence to prosecute offenders while governments have been compelled to change laws in favor of partial or complete bans, such as the recent passing of Bolivian law 4040, which prohibits any and all use of animals in Bolivian circuses.

Though ADI opposes circuses that utilize animal performers, it remains fully supportive of arts and entertainment and circuses that use only human performers.

View MSNBC Story Here
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Bob Barker, Jorja Fox and animal protection organizations launch "Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act"

"Historic Bill to end cruelty to wild animals in circuses"

Press Conference 06 Washington DC, Nov. 02, 2011 – Today on Capitol Hill, renowned celebrity animal protectionists Bob Barker and Jorja Fox will join Animal Defenders International (ADI), the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and members of Congress to launch a Bill that will change the way in which animals are used in the name of entertainment in the USA.

The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA) is a historic first for the U.S., and this Bill, which has attracted bipartisan support and been sponsored by Congressman Jim Moran (D-Va), aims to restrict the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses, effectively bringing to an end the random cruelty and neglect associated with circuses of this nature. It is the first bill to comprehensively tackle the use of all wild animals in US circuses ever to be launched in the U.S.

Rep. Moran said, "Keeping elephants in chains, confining wild animals like lions and tigers in small cages, and forcing them to perform unnatural tricks for the sole purpose of human amusement is increasingly difficult to justify the more we learn about these intelligent, social creatures.”

Philanthropist and TV host of "The Price Is Right" Bob Barker: “Americans are becoming increasingly aware that circus animals suffer from violent training techniques and severe confinement. Big, wild animals should not be part of the traveling circus and simply put, animal acts in circuses are antiquated and belong in the past, in a time when humans were ignorant about the needs of the other species who share our planet. “

CSI actress Jorja Fox, known to 73 million viewers as CSI’s Sara Sidle, said: “Congress has a responsibility to protect the welfare of animals and ensure public safety. A prohibition on the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses is proportionate, responsible, the least expensive solution to this problem, and long overdue. We call on Congress to bring to an end, once and for all, the abuse and suffering that has been exposed by ADI time and time again.”

A new video to be screened at the launch entitled ‘In the United States today...’ features footage from circuses including violence, confinement and deprivation. The Bill is supported by a series of Congressional ADI Briefings, which cover key issues such as ‘Public Health & Safety’, ‘Enforcement’, ‘Captivity & Transport’, ‘Control and Violence’, ‘TB’ and ‘Economics’. This provides overwhelming evidence to support the reasons that it is time for the US to move forward with other countries that are now taking action – the US needs to restrict the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

Careful research and detailed undercover investigations in U.S. traveling circuses have shown the welfare of animals is unacceptably compromised as the animals endure confinement, physical and social deprivation, long, arduous journeys, brutal control methods and physical violence. The training tools of the circus trade include bullhooks, electric prods, and whips.

Large animals like lions and tigers spend their lives cramped in small cages, and elephants are forced to live chained by one or more legs for hours on end. In addition, traveling circuses pose a serious threat to public safety, as the keeping of wild, stressed animals in dangerously close proximity to the public is a recipe for disaster. Incidents of circus workers and members of the public having been killed and maimed by circus animals are well documented.

ADI’s evidence shows how law enforcement authorities have difficulty enforcing Federal animal health, safety, and welfare laws, and violations due to the mobile and transitory nature of traveling circuses.

Jan Creamer, ADI’s President said: “This is a historic day, this is about America standing up and saying these magnificent animals should not be abused in the name of entertainment. The days of animals suffering in traveling circuses are numbered not just here in the US but all over the world. Due to severe confinement, lack of free exercise, and the restriction of natural behaviors, animals used in traveling circuses suffer and are prone to health, behavioral, and psychological problems.

“With the support of Bob Barker, ADI has exposed, time and again, that the use of violence to control animals is part of circus culture. In the U.S. we have seen animals beaten, whipped and electric shocked to make them perform tricks. We have shown that welfare and public safety are unacceptably compromised in traveling circuses. This brutality now needs to stop – for good.”

Ed Stewart from PAWS said: “Bob Barker and PAWS have advocated for performing animals for many years. We have witnessed the conditions in which they live and the physical and psychological damage they have endured. Mr. Barker has personally funded the peaceful retirement of numerous ex-circus animals to sanctuaries. It is time that we as a civilized nation stop the frivolous use of exotic animals in demeaning performances. The Show Must Not Go On."

Dr. Mel Richardson, ADI Veterinarian, who will be providing a veterinary perspective at the launch today said: "As a veterinarian with more than 40 years of experience caring for captive wild animals, I can say unequivocally that these animals suffer."

In February this year, ADI completed a mission that removed every circus animal from Bolivia after securing an animal circus ban there. This included flying 25 lions to Colorado and 4 to California to safe homes. Bolivia has the most progressive law in the world, but turned to American compassion to help the animals. ADI and PAWS believe the Bill will have massive popular support in the US.

Similar measures to prohibit or limit the use of animals in circuses have already been adopted in Bolivia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Peru, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, India and other countries and similar laws are being discussed in the UK, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Greece.

These countries have looked at the evidence and listened to the will of the people and done the right thing for animal welfare by implementing bans. It is now time that the U.S. did the same.

ENDS

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