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No Day at the Circus for Animals

Filed under: Activism
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Last weekend (July 7 to 10), Animal Allies of WNY attempted to reveal to the public the horrors of animal abuse that circulate the circus industry. Members stood outside UniverSoul Circus, located at the SUNY Buffalo South Campus, distributing informative fliers about the circus’ history of animal neglect and suffering.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has investigated UniverSoul Circus’ lack of animal care more than a few times.  Official citations include failure to provide veterinary care, medical records, and adequate space, and failure to properly maintain transport vehicles (click here for link).  The exhibitors continue to fail to meet the minimal federal standards established by the Animal Welfare Act.
Several videos are available for the skeptical majority.  For example, Tim Frisco of Carson & Barnes Circus, a company that leases animals to UniverSoul, was videotaped in 1999 abusing endangered Asian elephants through violent attacks and shocks with an electric prod. Frisco is still employed by Carson & Barnes.
Unfortunately, this kind of abuse is commonly used to train circus animals, as it takes more than a treat to persuade animals to perform dangerous tricks, such as jumping through hoops of fire.
But it’s not just the training of these animals that’s cruel.  Often, these animals are not receiving proper treatment behind the scenes, and instances of this kind of neglect have been recorded right here in Buffalo.  On July 5th, a tiger was videotaped writhing in pain as its paw was trapped underneath the sliding door of its cage.  On July 10th, an animal handler was recorded hitting tigers with what appears to be a broomstick.
In response to the videos, the Erie County SPCA and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are now conducting investigations of UniverSoul Circus.
“This is strictly a matter of ethics and our opposition of cruelty to animals.  If UniverSoul didn’t use animal acts, we would be the first in line buying tickets,” stated Morgan Dunbar, founder and director of Animals Allies of WNY.  “UniverSoul’s philosophy of promoting diversity and an appreciation of cultures through their Russian, Chinese, South African and American acts is wonderful.  This circus doesn’t need to exploit animals to make sales.”
Animal Allies of WNY encourages all Buffalonians to consider what their money will support when future exhibitions come to Buffalo.  For more information, visit

Rachelle Toarmino

  • lily

    I saw several commercials for the Universoul Circus, & none showed any animals. I was happy about this, & after reading this article maybe it was on purpose?it looked like a toned down & affordable version of cirque de soile (spelling unsure)
    I dislike animal use in the circus, & know it leads to much abuse. when I mentioned going to my boyfriend, thats the 1st thing he asked, ‘will there be animals, if so, I’m not going.’ Tricked by various commercials I said no… Thankfully we missed it or it would have caused trouble. I’m disappointed to learn this about them.