Caring for Circus Animals

People often wonder, “How does Carson & Barnes Circus care for its animals?”

Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about this all-important subject.

Q: How does Carson & Barnes Circus care for its animals?

A: Because animals are an integral part of what we present to our audiences, Carson & Barnes Circus provides the highest standards of care to our animal performers 365 days a year. Our staff consists of animal experts who devote their lives to living, working with and caring for animals. They meet the animals’ physical needs with nutritious foods and regular veterinary attention and their mental needs by providing a stimulating environment. In all aspects of animal care and safety, Carson & Barnes Circus exceeds all federal animal welfare standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Animal Welfare Act. The animals are our “Stars” and are treated accordingly.

Q: What are the conditions where the animals live on the road?

A: We pride ourselves on the level of care and the healthy environment we provide for all our animal performers. Our animal facilities are outdoors and in the full view of the public. Each animal is groomed daily. The entire area is kept clean around the clock. We often provide guided tours of our facility for schools, animal experts and media.

Q: What are the traveling conditions for the animals?

A: Carson & Barnes Circus is the largest tented circus in the United States. Every traveling species has custom-made traveling semi trucks, and our traveling animals are under constant supervision. Our jumps are between 45 and 100 miles in length. Our trucks and housing facilities are routinely inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and meet or exceed all federal, state and local guidelines.

Q: How much time do your animals spend performing?

A: An average day in the life of a Carson & Barnes Circus animal includes feeding, grooming, and play. For the most part, our animals spend most of the day eating, sleeping and socializing with other animals. Our elephants do not train or rehearse while on the road. Their performances last only a few minutes each day.

Q: How are the animals trained to perform their routines?

A: Our expert handlers watch closely as their animals socialize, then create routines based on natural behavior. We use voice recognition and rewards to encourage the animals to learn a set routine. This process ensures that our animals are relaxed when they are displaying their learned routines to patrons in an entertaining fashion.

Q: Is it true that animals, especially elephants, have a longer life span in captivity?

A: Indeed it is. In the wild, predators, hunters, and starvation due to a dwindling natural habitat, threaten the elephants. Our elephants at Carson & Barnes Circus are assured a lifetime of veterinary care, nutritious meals and clean, safe homes. Circus elephants generally live 62 to 70 years, which is even longer than zoo elephants. Some think this is because of the daily activity and mental stimulation of performing.

Q: At what age does a young elephant perform?

A: Calves born at Carson & Barnes Circus remain with their natural mothers or aunts until they are old enough to be properly weaned, usually around 2 years of age. For the 2013 season, a baby elephant will not tour with the circus.

Q: How does Carson & Barnes Circus feel about the regulation of performing animals?

A: We welcome regulation, because it protects the well being of all animals. There are many federal animal welfare statutes and state and local laws in place to protect animals and prosecute those who neglect or mistreat them. We adhere to the policy set forth by the NAIA on performing animals. You can read this policy here.

Q: How does Carson & Barnes Circus feel about local legislation banning the use of animal acts in some towns?

A: Sad, very sad. We believe that these bans are unnecessary and take away a treasured part of the circus experience that patrons tell us they support and love. (Fortunately, such communities are the exception, not the rule.) The circus offers an opportunity for a child to get “up close and personal” to some animals. One can read about an elephant, look at pictures in a book, or see them on TV, but until you have sensed the animals presence and majesty and come eye to eye with it, you don’t know what an elephant is!

Q: Do we have studies to support what we are saying?

A. Studies have been done by Texas A&M Animal Behavioral Specialist Dr. Ted Friend.

Another study by Dr. Martha Kiley-Worthington, one of the world’s foremost animal behaviorists, commissioned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, revealed that circus animals are healthier and live longer that either animals in the wild or in zoos. She believes that current efforts by animal extremists to ban circuses with animals does not serve the animals best interests.