SARASOTA - The Suncoast in known for its love of the circus and its long history here. But now a locally owned and operated circus is in hot water with PETA.
"An eyewitness came forward and provided us with a sworn affidavit to PETA and the eyewitness reported that beatings are a regular occurrence at Piccadilly, and that they are a part of the routine training process for this circus," said PETA official Delcianna Winder.
Based on PETA's report, the whistle blower, who works with the circus, gave a detailed description of the physical abuse and animal neglect.
"According to the whistle blower, the manager of Piccadilly Circus, Zachary Garden, beat the zebra with a 3 foot long rod, while someone else held the zebra in place. And he beat the zebra so forcefully that the animal collapsed as a result," said Winder.
PETA was unable to provide us with hard evidence of the allegations. But we were able to find a Department of Agriculture inspection report issued in April. It shows the circus did not provide the proper care for a lamb that had a fractured leg.
We also found a warning issued by the USDA December of last year that included 3 violations. But only one directly involved the handling of an animal. In that incident a young zebra died after being caught in another zebra's halter while playing. That warning did not result in a fine.
Officials from Piccadilly Circus say PETA's allegations are not true. "We take great pride in our animals and take very good care of them. They are actually considered a part of the family, they are on the road with us all year long and we spend a lot of time with them," said Cuinn Griffin from Piccadilly Circus.
In addition, Griffin says many of animals they use are contracted from various sources, but all of them are licensed and inspected by the USDA and other animal control agencies regularly. And, in most cases no violations are found.
"Animals in the circus actually get much better care than animals in the wild and the life experience they share with their owners is unequivocal to anything a wild animal could possible experience," said Griffin.