Written by Michelle Kretzer
A source close to John Cuneo, the owner of infamous circus supplier Hawthorn Corporation, has leaked information to PETA that we hope will convince the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to revoke Hawthorn's exhibitor license permanently and to seek criminal charges against Cuneo as well as Lance Ramos, an unlicensed exhibitor who has repeatedly abused and neglected exotic animals and who, according to the whistleblower's testimony, was unlawfully hired by Hawthorn.
Hawthorn breeds tigers and leases them to circuses around the world. It has provided Shrine circuses, Cole Bros. Circus, Jordan World Circus, George Carden Circus, Hanneford Circus, and Tarzan Zerbini Circus with tigers. The whistleblower gave PETA firsthand information about pervasive abuse and neglect of animals and apparent violations of federal law, including the following:
These allegations are just the latest in Hawthorn's long, sordid history of cruelty to animals. Please join PETA in asking the USDA to take the appropriate disciplinary action, including revoking Hawthorn's license to exhibit animals.
Written by Jeff Mackey
Update: PETA has now
confirmed that the USDA has not one but two
open investigations into AWA violations by the Hawthorn Corporation: one prompted by PETA's complaint regarding Hawthorn's use of Lance Ramos (see
below) to unlawfully exhibit tigers in violation of the USDA's revocation of Ramos' license and the other arising from a separate
case in Florida. Please urge the agency to follow the lead of governments
around the world in defending animals against abuse by circuses and exhibitors by permanently revoking
Originally posted on February 8th, 2013:
As PETA has learned from years of working to free animals
from Hawthorn's cruel clutches, calling Hawthorn "notorious" is actually
putting it rather mildly. The exotic-animal exhibitor's reprehensible history
of AWA violations include USDA citations issued on more than 60 occasions for Hawthorn's
many failures to provide animals with proper veterinary care, nutrition, safe
or sanitary enclosures, safe or humane handling practices, exercise, and adequate
The USDA's previous enforcement actions against Hawthorn
have entailed multiple license suspensions, more than a quarter of a million
dollars in penalties, and confiscation or ordered surrender of at least 17
exotic animals. None of these actions have done anything to ensure even adequate treatment of the animals
Hawthorn forces to perform.
The USDA has recognized that continuing to fail to adhere to
minimum standards of sanitation and feeding—both of which are chronic problems
for Hawthorn—are violations for which an AWA license should be revoked. Yet the
USDA appears to be granting Hawthorn preferential treatment by repeatedly renewing
Someone whose license was
permanently revoked is animal trainer Lance Ramos (aka "Lancelot
Kollman") after AWA citations for, among other cruelty, using physical
abuse as a "training tool" on exotic cats to the point that at least one
of them died and denying adequate veterinary care to an elephant so severely
emaciated that he was a full ton underweight when the USDA confiscated him. Despite this, Hawthorn brought Ramos on board to train and exhibit tigers, and
PETA has provided evidence to the USDA that he recently illegally exhibited the big cats with a Shrine circus and Showfolks
Every day that Hawthorn remains licensed is a day that
animals are suffering. Please send a polite e-mail to USDA General
Counsel Ramona Romero urging the agency to revoke Hawthorn's license immediately
and permanently disqualify its employees and agents from obtaining a USDA
When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) permanently revokes an animal exhibitor's license, it means game over—that person or company can never again exhibit animals. But Lancelot Kollman, aka Lance Ramos, a notorious animal abuser who flagrantly disregards the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), must think that he is above the law. PETA caught Kollman in the act, exhibiting tigers with the notorious Hawthorn Corporation at a Shrine circus in Fort Worth, Texas.
For animals in circuses, there is no such thing as "positive reinforcement"—only varying degrees of punishment and deprivation.
PETA has passed this evidence on to the USDA, prompting a formal investigation into both Kollman and Hawthorn. PETA is demanding that the agency pursue criminal charges against Kollman and permanently revoke Hawthorn's exhibitor license. This is far from the first run-in either one has had with the law.
When the USDA yanked Kollman's license in 2009, he had racked up quite a rap sheet for cruelty to animals by denying animals veterinary care, clean water, and adequate shelter; forcing them to live in unsanitary conditions; using physical abuse as a "training tool"; abusing two young lions to the point that one of them died; and starving an elephant so much that he was a full ton underweight when the USDA took the extraordinary enforcement action of confiscating him.
The Hawthorn Corporation brought Kollman onboard despite his well-documented history of animal abuse and neglect. That's no surprise since Hawthorn doesn't exactly play by the rules. The USDA knows Hawthorn well: The first time it ever exercised its authority to seize an elephant was from the Hawthorn Corporation, after an extensive campaign by PETA. Hawthorn had allowed an elephant named Delhi to stand in undiluted formaldehyde, which resulted in severe chemical burns, and then denied her proper veterinary care for her wounds. Hawthorn was subsequently ordered to relinquish custody of 16 additional elephants. The USDA has also suspended Hawthorn's exhibitor license twice, fined it a total of more than a quarter of a million dollars, and issued numerous cease-and-desist orders.
Hawthorn's litany of more than 60 violations of the AWA includes feeding animals moldy and fly-infested food, denying sick animals veterinary care, forcing tigers to live in tiny transport crates for months at a time, using unsafe handling practices, and keeping tigers who were not compatible in small cages together, which resulted in several tigers' deaths. In a span of just nine years, at least 32 tigers owned by Hawthorn died. Many of them were young, and many of them died under circumstances that were entirely preventable, such as from unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
Urge the USDA to show Kollman and Hawthorn that they are not above the law. Ask the agency to pursue criminal charges against Kollman and permanently revoke Hawthorn's license. Enough is enough.
Written by Jennifer OConnor
Notorious animal abuser Doug Terranova may not work for peanuts,
but the $25,000 fine that he was recently slapped with by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for violating
the federal Animal Welfare Act has to have put a dent in his bank account.
PETA has been keeping tabs on
Terranova—who rents animals to circuses, fairs, TV shows,
and movies like Spy Kids 2 and Rushmore—for years and has filed multiple complaints about his careless handling of elephants and tigers.
In one incident, an elephant named Kamba, whom Terranova had
rented to a circus in Oklahoma, escaped and ran onto the highway, where she was
hit by a vehicle and sustained several injuries, including a fractured carpal
bone, a broken tusk, and numerous abrasions. The USDA confiscated
a tiger cub from Terranova after two other tiger cubs died in his care at the
Iowa State Fair.
The USDA has stipulated that when
Terranova's license comes up for renewal, it will be renewed only if he no longer owns, handles, or exhibits elephants. In the meantime, Terranova
is still on the road and will be performing with the Shrine Circus.
Boycott the Shrine Circus, and
ask your local Shriners to stop sponsoring animal acts.
Written by PETA
"For over 100 years, the Shriners have sponsored this World Famous event with proceeds going to a great cause—helping less fortunate children in your community." That quote was lifted from the Shrine Circus website.
But a Shriner in Fort Worth, Texas, was determined to let Animal Connection Texas members who were protesting the Moslah Shrine Circus know that "we [Shriners] don't use one penny of this [circus revenue] for our kids." Watch as he makes this point over and over.
Surprised? We're not—after all, in addition to recounting numerous tiger and elephant attacks (both animal-on-trainer and vice versa), PETA's lengthy factsheet on the Shrine Circus notes that various articles from The New York Times, the Edmonton Sun, and other newspapers have raised concerns about Shriners' misrepresentations about funds coming in and going out.
So if, as the representative in the video insists, the Shriners don't use money from circus performances featuring beaten elephants and whipped tigers to help children, what is all that money being spent on?
Written by Christine Becknell
Last month, the Newmarket Council in Ontario voted to deny a permit to the Shrine Circus for performances that were scheduled to take place at Ray Twinney Recreation Complex on June 17 and 18 because of safety and other concerns.
Unfortunately, the circus promoter decided to challenge the council's vote. But all is not lost. On Friday, while a judge was scheduled to review the challenge, local residents stood outside the courthouse to show support for the council's ruling. But the hearing was postponed! Undeterred, our heroes hit the streets again today to ask the court to say "No!" to Shrine Circus cruelty.
Newmarket and its residents have good reason to worry about the safety of circuses that use animals, especially elephants. Captive elephants are beaten, chained, and denied everything that is natural and important to them, and they have been known to go on rampages. And because of elephants' tremendous size, even minor accidents can be dangerous. Just three months ago, 12 children were injured when a Shrine Circus elephant bumped into a mobile staircase where the kids were waiting for rides.
While we're all waiting on pins and needles for the judge's decision, we encourage you to reach out to your local lawmakers and urge them to enact legislation banning circuses with animal acts.
Written by Liz Graffeo
Twelve children were treated by paramedics on Saturday when an elephant who was being forced to give rides at the Indiana State Fairgrounds bumped into the mobile staircase on which kids stood awaiting rides, knocking it down. The rides were being given between performances of the Murat Shrine Circus. Luckily, the kids only suffered minor injuries, but people involved in other elephant-ride incidents haven't been so lucky.
The staircase collapse isn't the first dangerous incident involving an elephant used by a Shrine Circus. In 2005, a trainer working for the Shrine Circus in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was stomped to death as he loaded elephants onto a trailer. In 2003, an elephant at the Shrine Circus in Muskegon, Michigan, escaped from a tent and fled into a busy downtown area. In 2002, two elephants with the Shrine Circus in Dunn County, Wisconsin, bolted out of a circus tent, scattering frightened circusgoers.
In other Shrine Circus news, we've learned that an exhibitor whose bears were used during a Shrine Circus performance last year at Knox County Middle School in Tennessee was cited by the USDA for serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including seating people within 20 feet of the bear without a barrier of any kind. We've written a letter to the school principal urging him to ban circuses with animal acts from appearing on school grounds in the future.
Many people don't realize that the Shriners do not operate their own circus. Shrine temples either hire an existing circus or put together a collection of animal exhibitors and other acts that perform under the Shrine Circus name. Many of the animal exhibitors the Shriners hire have deplorable records of animal care. Click here to read our factsheet on the Shrine Circus.
People, run—don't walk—away from any circus that uses animals. And whatever you do, don't let any guy in a fez talk you into placing your tots on the back of some poor elephant whose own kids have been taken away from her and who now spends her days being chained up and jabbed with a bullhook. Today just might be the day she snaps. And really, who could blame her?
Written by Alisa Mullins
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.