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While circus parades into Oklahoma, groups denounce elephant restraints

From Staff and Wire Reports Published: May 22, 2008
A spokesman for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey said Wednesday he doubts Oklahomans will be scared away from the circus next month by recent legal action accusing the company of chaining its elephants for days at a time.

A coalition of animal welfare groups says it has evidence that Ringling Bros. circus elephants are sometimes chained for days at a time, and the groups asked a judge Wednesday to halt the practice while a lawsuit comes to trial.

Hours spent in chains
In federal court papers filed in Washington, the groups said Ringling Bros.' own train records show the Asian elephants are chained in box cars for an average of more than 26 straight hours and often 60 to 70 hours at a time when the circus travels. In some cases, the elephants have been chained on trains for 90 to 100 hours, court papers allege.

The parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Feld Entertainment Inc., argues chaining elephants during transport is necessary and legal.

Steve Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, said the elephants were restrained "for their own safety” in accordance with federal guidelines. He compared the restraints to seat belts and said the box cars are monitored by circus staff.

But the plaintiffs' lead attorney, Katherine Meyer, said some of the elephants are spending more than half their lives in chains.

"It's not fair. It's not humane, what kind of life these animals have to live in order to give a 12-minute performance,” Meyer said.

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