TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) – The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus has arrived but not without controversy. People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA) is offering a reward for arena employees who can document abuse of elephants.
Families lined Summit Street Monday afternoon to see the traditional arrival of the elephants, as a parade of them walked to the Huntington Center after being unloaded from trains.
But PETA says handlers from Ringling Bros. use tools called "bull hooks" to keep them in line, proof that they are abusing them.
PETA says it's illegal to use them in Ohio on animals involved in circuses and is offering a $5,000 reward for any Huntington Center employee who can document them being used.
Delcianna Winders of PETA said: "We're looking for photographic or video evidence and it can certainly be something that's taken from a cell phone and that's something virtually everyone has on them today so it should be easy to do."
Women walking by the arena said they would go for the reward.
"I think I would do it more for the animals than for the money, but the money would help," said Renee Heaston.
Hope Burt was asked if it would motivate people who work there to report something. She said, "It probably will. I am sure a lot of employees will do it, will do their best."
Ohio Revised Code 959.20 prohibits the use of "electric or other prods, or similar devices" on "work animals." But Ringling Bros. spokesperson Steve Payne said they are an acceptable tool to work with the elephants.
"Our animals are thriving in our care. Everyone who works with these animals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is devoted to one thing and that's to making sure these animals stay healthy and safe."
Payne invited Toledoans to come to the show and see how the animals are treated. "It's just another publicity tactic PETA is using. They tried the same stunt in Cleveland except they only offered people $500. So apparently they feel that the cost of living in Toledo is a little bit higher."
You can decide for yourself when the circus opens on Thursday night. It runs through Sunday.
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