Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Ex-Ringling big cats holed up in Arkansas pre-flight

Posted: 12 September 2017. Updated: 12 September 2017

Animal Defenders International (ADI) who opposed the export and campaigns against circus suffering around the world has called for the US to join nearly 40 countries who have acted to end such acts.

Arkansas wildlife authorities found the 14 big cats caged in a Poinsett County farm shop, after an anonymous call on Saturday night. According to media reports Arkansas Game and Fish Commission stated that Lacey had failed to notify the county that he had the animals housed there temporarily.

Last week police in Georgia shot dead Lacey’s eighth tiger, Suzy, after she escaped during a stop en route to Tennessee. Spotted on the interstate, Suzy entered a residential area and, as stated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, after she “became aggressive toward pets in the area, it was deemed necessary for public safety to put it down”. Transporter Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros Circus, stated they didn’t know Suzy was missing until they had reached their destination, raising concerns as to whether the big cats were properly checked.

Following the closure of Ringling Bros earlier this year, Alexander Lacey is taking his animals to Zirkus Charles Knie in Germany, and is also set to appear at Heilbronner Weihnachts over the Christmas period. An application to export the big cats from the US was opposed by ADI and other animal groups, as well as members of the public. The permit was approved August 14 by the US Fish and Wildlife Service but, according to staff we spoke to on September 7, 2017, the permit still needed to be signed off after a correction is made.

Over the years, ADI has caught on film a catalogue of abuse at circuses owned by the big cat trainer’s father Martin Lacey Snr including tigers hit with whips and sticks by Martin Lacey Sr and his daughter Natasha Lacey; elephants abused, punched, and hit with brooms and sticks by their presenter and groom – Martin Lacey Sr told Members of the British Parliament that the elephants were not chained, yet ADI video evidence showed that they were chained every day, for up to 11 hours; lions and tigers confined in transporters 27 hours for a journey time of 3 hours 25 minutes; Alexander Lacey’s “beastman” lost his temper and lashed out at and hit tigers in a beast wagon, he also hit a lioness in the mouth with a metal bar; Alexander Lacey jabbed a big cat hard with a stick, and concealed a seriously injured lioness from inspectors.

ADI has renewed its call for Congress to support the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (HR1759). HR 1759 was introduced March 28 by Representatives Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), and aims to amend the Animal Welfare Act to restrict the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses and traveling performances. The bill has 32 co-sponsors.

Given the constant travel and their temporary nature, circuses cannot provide animals with adequate facilities to keep them physically or psychologically healthy. Welfare is always compromised.

Expert analysis of scientific evidence commissioned by the Welsh Government and undertaken by Professor Stephen Harris at Bristol University last year concluded, “The available scientific evidence indicates that captive wild animals in circuses and other travelling animal shows do not achieve their optimal welfare requirements.” The report stated that “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses…does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’”.

The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) has concluded “there is by no means the possibility that their [wild mammals in travelling circuses’] physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.”

The British Veterinary Association concludes that “The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within a travelling circus - in terms of housing or being able to express normal behaviour.”

Nearly 40 countries around the world and more than 70 local US jurisdictions have introduced prohibitions on animals in circuses to date. Several states including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have introduced and are considering similar legislation. Illinois recently passed a ban on elephant performances and the New York Governor has a similar bill on his desk awaiting signature.

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