Group to protest circus animal performances in Wichita Falls

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Trish Choate, Wichita Falls Times Record News
Published 3:03 p.m. CT June 30, 2019

North Texas animal advocates are speaking out against animal performances in a circus coming Tuesday to the Kay Yeager Coliseum. 

Texomans Speak Up for Circus Animals plans to protest against the use of wild or exotic animals in two shows scheduled Tuesday, and the group has also purchased space on an electronic billboard on Lawrence Road to raise awareness of the issue, a group member said. 

Garden Brothers Circus materials prominently feature performing elephants, which is especially worrisome to Jan Herzog of Wichita Falls. She is active in the local animal rescue community and is worried about animal mistreatment.  

“I’m concerned about any time I see large animals, especially elephants in … any kind of circus,” Herzog said. “It’s not a good situation for them even under the best of circumstances.” 

Herzog said she believes conditions are poor for elephants in the Garden Brothers Circus, and they are subject to mistreatment, including painful goading behind the ears with a bullhook. 

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A bullhook is a long metal bar with a sharp hook on the end, Herzog said. 

“They use them to train the elephants and to control them,” she said. 

The executive director of Stellar Entertainment Group Inc., Jim Davis, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon about Garden Brothers Circus animals.  

But handlers treat the animals well, and veterinarians trained to look for mistreatment frequently examine them, Davis said in a Times Record News story published Friday. 

Nevada-based Compassionworks International — with a mission “to create a more compassionate world for all beings” — provides information to Texomans Speak Up for Circus Animals, which has a Facebook group page. 

Betty and Bo are two elephants seen performing for the Garden Brothers Circus, Herzog said. 

“Betty, particularly, she’s chronically lame,” Herzog said. “She can be seen at times using her trunk kind of like a crutch or a cane for support, which is just heartbreaking.”

Elephants kept on concrete are unable to engage in their natural behavior of walking or foraging for food in the wild, she said.

“If they’re confined in a trailer or a pen, they’re standing and standing on concrete,” Herzog said. “They develop very painful arthritis. They’re still forced to work.”

Herzog contends that Betty and Bo also have a history of testing positive for tuberculosis. 

“We don’t know what their current TB status is. It’s no longer required by law to test them. So that’s a little worrisome to me,” she said. 

The two elephants wouldn’t be homeless if they weren’t in the circus, Herzog said. 

“There are two excellent elephant sanctuaries in this country who would be glad to take them. Even if they test positive for TB, they could make a life for them,” she said. 

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