Ringling Bros. Agree to Pay Largest Ever Animal Welfare Fine

The owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has agreed to pay a $270,000 fine to settle allegations the cirrus federal animal-welfare laws in its handling of elephants, tigers, zebras and other exotic animals. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the civil penalty is the largest ever under the Animal Welfare Act.

“This settlement sends a direct message to the public and to those who exhibit animals that USDA will take all necessary steps to protect animals regulated under the Animal Welfare Act,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The civil penalty and other stipulations in the settlement agreement will promote a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all exhibitors in maintaining and caring for animals under their care.”

As part of the settlement, Ringling, which bills itself as “the Greatest Show on Earth,” also agreed to implement annual compliance training for all employees who work with animals, the USDA said. The alleged violations occurred from June 2007 to August 2011.

According to USDA records, inspections uncovered cases of inadequate bedding, splintered floors, rusted cages and threats to clean food that ranged from fiberglass hanging over haystacks, rat droppings in a cooler to circus handlers using the same wheelbarrows to feed meat to tigers and haul away their waste.

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