- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

BARABOO, Wis. (AP) - Circus World, with its roots in the Ringling Bros., says it’s committed to keeping elephants in its shows in Baraboo.

The parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced plans Thursday to eliminate elephants from its circus performances by 2018. Feld Entertainment says some cities and counties have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances, making touring difficult with changing regulations.

Baraboo was home to the Ringling Bros. when they began their first tour as a circus in 1884. Today, Circus World continues big top shows with performers from all over the world.

Executive director Scott O’Donnell said Circus World has a great environment for the elephants and an exemplary record for keeping them safe. The elephants are the museum’s most popular attraction, he said.

“We are very committed to having elephants here with us as long as we are able to do that,” he said.

O’Donnell told WKOW-TV (https://bit.ly/18lXCvv ) state and federal inspectors visit the circus regularly. He said Circus World checks out prospective performers to ensure they properly care for elephants.

Longtime ringmaster and performance director Dave SaLoutos said it’s usually clear when an elephant is unhappy.

“You look at the animals first and foremost, how are the animals in appearance, how are their feet, how is their grooming, do they look like they’re well-fed,” SaLoutos said.

Hannah West with Alliance for Animals and the Environment said she was amazed by Feld Entertainment’s decision, and that it sends a message that animals aren’t meant for entertainment.

“The way that these animals are trained is not by bribing them with peanuts or anything, the way that you train your dog, because they’re wild animals.” West said. “They can’t be trained unless they’re made afraid of something, unless they’re harmed and they’re hurt.”

Kenneth Feld, who runs Feld Entertainment, told The Associated Press that the elephant act retirement plan for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus wasn’t made in response to critics.

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Information from: WKOW-TV, https://www.wkow.com

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