March 10, 1998
Ron DeHaven, D.V.M.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Unit 97, 4700 River Road
Riverdale, MD 20737
Re: Ringling Brothers Circus
Dear Mr. DeHaven:
Recently, I read a sad news story regarding Kenny, a three-year-old Asian baby elephant owned by the Ringling Brothers Circus. The article detailed that on January 24th the baby elephant was made to perform in the circus shows that date despite an illness. Later that day, Kenny died.
I am surprised and curious about this event. Surprised that (if, as they say on their website, Ringling Brothers meets and exceeds federal Animal Welfare Act regulations regarding veterinarian care for the animals) this animal's physician did not recognize or properly treat his illness, which was apparently quite serious, and that he (Kenny) was not withdrawn from the circus shows that day to allow time for recuperation from that illness.
I am curious or perhaps confused about the same issue; if there was an animal physician attending his needs why was he not properly treated and why did he perform, or alternately, if there was not an animal physician attending him, how is it that Ringling Brothers Circus is continuing to exhibit animals when it is violation the Animal Welfare Act, despite the claims on "www.ringling.com"?
While I consider myself an animal lover and care about all animals, I have a special fondness for elephants. I abhor seeing them exhibited in circuses to begin with--such large, intelligent, gentle and social beasts being chained up, forced to perform and usually separated from family packs--but upon hearing about this case I felt moved to write you and ask for your intervention.
As I am sure you are aware, elephants in the wild have a lifespan similar to and sometimes longer than that of a typical human being--anywhere from 70 to 100 years. For a three-year-old elephant to die in such a manner is peculiar and in my opinion requires some investigation. If a three-year-old human child died under similar circumstances, certainly it would be the government's obligation to investigate the situation to be sure that no one else would be hurt as a result of abuse or neglect of a similar nature. Therefore, Mr. DeHaven, I strongly urge you to take a decisive measure now. Please suspend Ringling Brothers' exhibitor's license immediately pending a thorough investigation into the death of Kenny and an examination of all their other animals by independent, objective veterinarians to assure the animals' physical and mental health is being maintained.
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