calf-right calf-left

IDA Blasts USDA For Ineffective Cole Bros. Circus Fine

Action Alerts

Moo-ving people toward compassionate living

Your letters and calls do help!

"Be the change you wish to see in the world" ~Mohandas Gandhi
"Our lives began and end the day we become silent things that matter" ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Originally Posted: April 23, 2012

IDA Blasts USDA For Ineffective Cole Bros. Circus Fine

FROM In Defense of Animals (IDA)


Send a message to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, then follow up with a phone call expressing your disapproval of this settlement and urging the USDA to hold circuses and other exhibitors responsible for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. You can call Sec. Vilsack at (202) 720-3631. fined the outfit a mere $15,000 in settlement of more than 10 serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act

Sign an online petition:

And/or better yet, make direct contact:

Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
phone (202) 720-3631
fax (202) 720-2166
[email protected] 


Once again, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has refused to hold a circus fully accountable for putting animals and the public at grave risk. The agency gave the Cole Brothers Circus nothing more than a slap on the wrist when it recently fined the outfit a mere $15,000 in settlement of more than 10 serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Last July, IDA was optimistic over news that the USDA had filed charges against the Cole Brothers Circus for multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) over several years. The charges included failure to provide veterinary care to an emaciated elephant, failure to handle an elephant in a way that minimized the risk of harm to the public and the elephant, handlers who lacked the training and knowledge to handle tigers and elephants in public, and selling tigers without a dealer license.

These charges could and should have resulted in fines of close to $100,000. Instead, the USDA chose to settle for an 85% reduction in the amount that could have been levied against the circus.

Penalties are supposed to be based in part on the circus’s history of violations and the severity of the charges. Cole’s history makes a case for much more severe consequences:

In January 2000, the USDA filed formal charges against the circus for abusing elephants; a $10,000 fine was levied but suspended.

Their record of AWA violations continued unabated.

In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service levied huge fines and probation against the circus and owner John Pugh for the illegal sale of two endangered Asian elephants, after IDA uncovered the illegal sale.

Even after the just-settled formal charges were filed in 2011, following multiple formal complaints by IDA, the USDA repeatedly cited trainers performing with the circus for safe handling violations, including a handler with no experience giving rides on an elephant with a history of bolting.

This settlement shows that the USDA fails to hold AWA violators accountable in any meaningful way, eliminating any deterrent effect against future violations. Instead, circuses are shown time and time again that they can get away with almost any abuses by paying a small fine that becomes just another cost of doing business. 

Thank you for everything you do for animals!