Guest columnist: Ringling Bros. proud to care for our circus animals

This weekend Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will proudly return to the city of Kennewick, with a brand new show, Super Circus Heroes. Sadly, readers of the Tri-City Herald have recently been presented with a great deal of misinformation on our animal care. Two letters to the editor have taken claims made by animal rights groups and voiced opinions that are not only untrue but are an affront to the dedicated men and women with Ringling Bros. who spend their lives caring for all our animals, particularly our treasured Asian elephants. It’s time we set the record straight.

Ringling Bros. is proud of its human and animal partnerships and the physical and behavioral needs of our animals are a top priority that can be seen in every city we visit. The health and vitality of our animals is something we showcase at each and every Ringling Bros. performance. Ringling Bros. also meets or exceeds all federal, state, and local animal standards. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducts regular unannounced inspections of all federally-licensed zoos and circuses, including Ringling Bros., to ensure compliance with government regulations and policies, and, despite claims made by animal rights groups, Ringling Bros. has never been found in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Also contrary to recent claims, all of our elephants are trained through repetition and reward (think lots of treats). They are transported in custom built railcars specially designed for their comfort and safety. While on the train, a member of our animal care team actually rides in the car with them to make sure they are safe. A veterinary technician is also part of each of our circus units and we have a team of full-time veterinarians who travel the country keeping vigilant watch to ensure all of the elephants receive proper medical care. And these animal care experts routinely consult with zoos and other institutions, sharing their decades of knowledge and experience working with these magnificent animals.

In addition, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has made a lifetime commitment to the Asian elephant. In 1995, the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation was established to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to experience this magnificent yet endangered species.

This 200-acre, state-of-the-art facility was designed for the research, reproduction, and retirement of the Asian elephant and enables Ringling Bros. to share its elephant husbandry knowledge with the veterinary and conservation communities worldwide. We now have the largest and only sustainable population of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere. This is a major step in the conservation of this highly endangered species and a portion of each ticket to a Ringling Bros. performance goes to fund these critical activities. In short, when it comes to our elephants, we are truly committed to their care and well-being, and their continued survival. More information on the Center for Elephant Conservation and our work in the U.S. and abroad can be found at www.elephantcenter.com.

Animal rights groups will no doubt continue to distort the care and commitment we have for all of our animal performers. Rather than take what they say at face value, we invite all Tri-City Herald readers to come visit us this weekend and see for themselves how all our animals are thriving at The Greatest Show On Earth.