Ringling Brothers brings controversy over animal cruelty - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Ringling Brothers brings controversy over animal cruelty

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Nicole Gerber

PROVIDENCE - The circus is in town, exotic animals and all.

It's got animal rights activists fired up about what they believe are cruel training practices.

"When the circus comes to town, you can be sure that cruelty comes along with it, because every circus that uses exotic animals uses the threat of pain and intimidation to train them," said Ashley Byrne, a campaign specialist with PETA.

But trainers with the Greatest Show on Earth say that animal safety is their top priority.

"That's the most important thing, that the public understands how much we care about them," said Joey Frisco, a senior elephant handler with Ringling Brothers. "Our smallest elephant here... April, she's about 3000 lbs, I don't know if anybody's ever had a 3000 lbs dog or anything but you're not going to make any kind of animal do anything they don't want to do."

PETA protesters handed out fliers and dvd's loaded with what they believe is evidence showing ringling trainers using bull hooks, long sticks with metal ends, as punishment tools in training.

"Bull hooks serve only two purposes, to inflict pain, and to inflict the fear of pain," said Byrne.

Currently, a bill is pending in the Rhode Island legislature, that would outlaw the use of bull hooks in the state.

But according to Ringling - not much would change.

They say the tools are only used to guide the animals during training.

"Every animal that we have here, the elephants, the big cats, the horses, all the way down to our small dogs, the trainer is the best at what they do and animal care is always number one," said Frisco.

Circuses adhere to strict rules under the Animal Welfare Act, w
hich is monitored by the USDA.

We looked up their records and found at the last routine inspection in December, no issues were found.

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