April 21, 2021

Spooked camel injures 6 children at Pittsburgh circus

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By: Laura Goldman From Care2

You might think that the demise of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus—which announced before it shut down last year that it would no longer use live elephants—would be a wake-up call for other circuses to drop their non-human performers.

Unfortunately, that was not the case with the Shrine Circus in Pittsburgh this month, which featured live elephants as well as tigers and other animals. During intermission, children could ride ponies, elephants and camels—and that’s when things went horribly wrong the afternoon of Sept. 16 at the PPG Paints Arena.

According to one witness, a child threw a shovel at one of the two camels. The spooked animal bucked and ran across the arena floor as the adult and two children riding it tried to cling to its hump for dear life. As people panicked, an announcer urged them to remain calm and make no unnecessary movements.

It took 11 seconds for handlers to stop the camel.

Six children and one adult were hurt and treated by emergency medical services at the scene. Five of the children, including one who suffered a fractured arm, were taken to a local hospital for further treatment for minor injuries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which enforces the Animal Welfare Act, is investigating the incident, according to the Associated Press.

“The Shrine Circus takes great pride in the expert care and welfare of our wonderful performing animals, and you know we wouldn’t have it any other way!” the Shrine Circus – Pittsburgh Facebook page proclaims. But animal welfare groups disagree and had unsuccessfully urged the city of Pittsburgh not to host the circus.

“Animal circuses, especially those whom the Syria Shrine Circus subcontracts their animals from, have a long history of animal abuse and public safety violations,” Humane Action Pittsburgh (HAP) said in a statement after the incident. Syria Shrine is the Pittsburgh chapter of Shriners International.

For example, according to HAP, every company the circus subcontracted with last year had numerous violations. The tigers were originally from Hawthorn Corporation, which had over a quarter of a million dollars in USDA fines and had its license suspended two times under the Animal Welfare Act.

The camels performing with the Shrine Circus in 2017 were from America’s Show Camels. This company’s owner, Ian Garden, is a member of the family that runs the Garden Brothers Circus, formerly known as the Piccadilly Circus. The USDA had issued that circus a citation for failing to use appropriate methods to prevent and treat diseases after two camels were found with ringworm lesions.

Yet another reason to be leery of the Syria Shrine Circus’s insistence that it doesn’t abuse its animals is its reported fury last year when Pittsburgh banned the use of bullhooks, electric prods and other cruel devices used by handlers to make wild animals submissive.

What’s really infuriating is that four months ago, a county judge was somehow convinced by circus chairman Paul Leavy to temporarily curtail this new law so the circus would be able to come to Pittsburgh. Leavy argued that the contracts for the 2018 show were already signed when the city council voted to ban painful instruments.

Shriners International chapters around the country hire traveling circuses to perform at fundraising events. The proceeds don’t go to Shriners Hospitals for Children, according to In Defense of Animals (IDA), but to the chapter’s operations fund.

“Shriners also hold many non-circus fundraisers that actually go to Shriner Hospitals for Children. They are creative and successful without exploiting elephants,” IDA notes. “Obviously, they can choose to raise money for their administrative expenses this way as well.”

In light of the camel incident, here’s hoping the Shrine Circus will reconsider and end its use of live animals. As global awareness grows about the cruelty and danger of using animals for the purpose of human entertainment, this circus needs to acknowledge this. If it truly does care about the welfare of animals, it should stop exploiting them for profit.

Please sign and share this Care2 petition urging Shriners International to stop supporting circuses that use live animals.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You‘ll find Care2‘s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

Photo credit: Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi/Flickr

For more on this story, video and to sign petition go to: https://www.care2.com/causes/spooked-camel-injures-6-children-at-pittsburgh-circus.html

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