Updated: Ringling Bros. Elephant Injures Trainer
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is reporting that an elephant named P.T. attacked Ringling Bros. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey trainer Joe Frisco Jr. while the circus was at Miami's America Airlines Arena on January 7.
Ringling Bros. issued a statement Wednesday stating the Frisco "received minor injuries after falling while walking with a juvenile elephant in the elephant barn in Miami."
"Contrary to false reports issued by an animal rights group to the media today, Mr. Frisco was not attacked by the elephant nor was the accident a result of any purported mistreatment."
PETA, which received its information from a whistle blower, has asked the USDA to investigate the incident and inspect the animals for any signs of abuse.
"Elephants who are routinely abused in circuses become ticking time bombs," says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. "The beatings lead to attacks, and the attacks lead to more beatings. This is not the first time that PETA has received a report that an elephant attacked a Ringling trainer, and it probably won't be the last."
P.T. is a juvenile elephant that does not perform, but whose mother is on the tour with the circus' Red Unit. P.T. was brought to Miami from the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk County, FL to see if it would take to life on the road. The five and a half year-old elephant apparently did not adapt well to life with the circus, and will now live permanently at the center and not travel, a Ringling Bros. statement said.
Joe Frisco Jr. is the brother of Tim Frisco, also an elephant trainer, who was caught on tape viciously beating elephants with steel-tipped bullhooks for the Carson & Barnes Circus.
In 2005 a Ringling Bros. handler needed medical treatment for a fractured pelvis when he was knocked down by an elephant, and in 1993 a Ringling Bros. elephant killed a handler in Gainesville, FL when it stepped on his chest, according to PETA.
On its website, Ringling Bros. says its animal trainers and their charges have "a relationship built on respect, trust, affection and uncompromising care," and that "verbal or physical abuse" of the animals "and the withholding of food or water" from them "are strictly prohibited ... Just watch our animals and their handlers interact and you will see the wonderful bond between them.” -- Tovin Lapan
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.