Leahy says that methods of control that work through dominance are counterproductive. She says that methods employed by the San Diego Wildlife Park, which focus on positive reinforcement, should be adopted by circuses.
Archele Hundley, who worked on an animal crew for Ringling Brothers for two months before quitting in disgust, testified that she'd seen both bull hooks and chaining used to abuse elephants.
She says she saw an elephant being beaten for 35 to 40 minutes by a trainer who eventually swung the bull hook like a baseball bat into the elephant's ear.
She also says she saw animals tethered for long periods of time.
"I saw them in box cars in chains from Worcester, Massachusetts all the way to Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were in chains, standing in box cars in their own feces and urine."
However, officials with Ringling Brothers
say an investigation of these charges by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, the federal agency responsible for
inspecting elephant care, had found no evidence to sustain
Ellen Wiedner, director of veterinary services with Ringling Brothers, says she has never seen an elephant abused during her five years with the circus.
She says that tools like bull hooks, when used properly, are indispensable to giving elephants the medical attention they require.
"By the use of a tool gently touching an elephant I can sit under an elephant and do a reproductive exam," she says, noting that the average female Asian elephant that she works on can range from 8,000 to 15,000 pounds.
She also says the practice of tethering the animals for designated periods of time--during sleep, feeding, or travel, can produce animals that are more comfortable with being restrained for veterinary examinations.
"These are social, well-adjusted animals, and they are very well-cared for," says Wiedner.
Tom Albert, vice president of government relations and animal policy for Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Brothers, says the circus could not come to Chicago if forced to leave its elephants at home.
"We can't go anywhere without our elephants," says Albert. "Our marketing studies have repeatedly shown that animals are the number one attraction in the circus."