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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Circus Days (and the animals)

I was just perusing Facebook looking for some of the old gang from Circus World, where I worked from 1984 to mid 1986. My job as a clown was my first exposure to large animals other than visiting the zoo as a kid. I know I had my picture taken with a baby leopard, a baby elephant and standing next to a tiger separated by the performance cage. I can honestly say, I never saw an animal mistreated there. The trainer and the animals seemed to have an understanding. That's not to say I didn't hear a tiger roar out a complaint now and then as I'm sure they had their bad days.

One sad thing was the death of a female giraffe named Agnes. For some reason, they park decided to sell Agnes to a well known animal collector named Earl Tatum. The gal who took care of the giraffe and other livestock tried to tell the handlers that the procedure might be tricky. While I don't remember her name, I remember that she was quite angry about the whole situation.

Agnes was apparently overweight as a result of having little space to run or get much exercise. A veterinarian was not called to be on hand for the transport. He was only called when she collapsed. I was able to retrieve a news article about this on the Internet. The vet said that her heart wasn't in the best condition and, after she collapsed, it was a mistake to try to get her to stand up again. He added that it would have been wiser to have attempted the move earlier in the day or later in the evening rather than in the afternoon heat of a Florida September day. Unfortunately, there were many spectators, on their way to the big Circus performance, that stopped to watch and became witnesses to the sad event.

Other than that one event, the animals appeared to be well cared for. The elephant barn was open and airy with large viewing areas where the public could look in as they walked by. I know there are folks who are totally against the restraint or training of any exotic animal, but I will always be a circus fan and the animals are a big part of that. There were a few animal acts, however, that I felt just didn't belong. I've never like to see bears in the circus, for one, and Circus World had a chimpanzee act for a short time that I just felt was wrong for the place. It just didn't seem right to see primates wearing collars, and bears too, for that matter. None of our other acts, even some dog acts, required the animals to wear collars.

I hope to dig up some pictures of my circus days so I can scan them to the computer. Until then, May All Your Days be Circus Days!

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