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It’s showtime for Cole Bros. circus

Animal rights group pushes USDA complaint

The Cole Bros. Circus of the Stars is scheduled to open in Hampton, today, at Atlanta Motor Speedway, amid complaints of alleged animal abuse and neglect in the nationally known show.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has filed complaints about the circus, and its owner, dating back to 2007, which have led to formal charges being filed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“[There are] a set of care standards that must be met, if you are going to be using regulated animals involved in a regulated activity,” said Dave Sacks, USDA spokesman.

“Cole Bros. Circus has not had an active USDA exhibitor license since 2008,” said Sacks. “The reason we do not regulate them anymore is because they contract out for their animal acts. We regulate and inspect the different entities that supply Cole Bros. with animal acts,” Sacks said.

The USDA has called Cole Bros. to task, along with its owner, John W. Pugh, for allegedly “failing to provide adequate veterinarian care to animals in their custody and control.”

“Cole Bros. Circus certainly has the legal right to put on their shows across the country, even as the legal complaint issue is ongoing,” said Sacks. “It is the contracted animal acts that we would make sure their owners are providing humane care to those animals.”

Several calls were made to reach Cole Bros. for comment, but they were unsuccessful.

“Cole Bros. Circus is involved in a legal complaint issued by the USDA stemming from possible violations back when it did possess a USDA exhibitor license, July 18, 2010, according to Sacks. He said the main focus of the USDA is to ensure the welfare of the animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act.

Carney Anne Chester, a spokesperson for PETA ,said her group complained to the USDA about alleged willful violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including failure to provide adequate veterinary care to underweight elephants. Those charges were filed in July 2011.

Since the charges were filed, Cole Bros. has continued to perform. It’s most recent stop was two weeks ago in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where PETA’s complaints followed them.

“We have consistently complained about the abuses and neglectful treatment of animals by Cole Bros. Circus,” added Chester.