Circus to go on despite PETA concerns

By Kitsey Burns Harrison -

LONE HICKORY — The Lewis and Clark Circus is scheduled to perform two shows at the Lone Hickory Indoor Arena this Saturday, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is asking the local facility to not allow the use of animals in the show after a recent incident.

A handler with the circus was flown to a trauma unit for a head injury last week in Maryland after being bitten and trampled by a camel, according to an article in the Washington Post.

In light of the injury, PETA has issued a press release and contacted the Lone Hickory Arena to request that the circus go on without the use of animals in the performance.

Sandy Chamberlain, owner of the Lone Hickory Arena, explained that the arena was not associated with the circus group in any way, the group had simply booked the space to use for its performance. She said they had performed at the arena last spring as well and she did feel they were a reputable group. All groups using the arena sign are required to sign a contract stating that their animals are healthy and treated with the utmost care.

“That’s very important to us,” Chamberlain said.

“A lot of these animals that are used in performances and rodeos and things like that, they get the most excellent care and the most excellent retirement,” she added.

Chamberlain did note that the health department had informed them that a camel with the circus was in quarantine and would not be brought to the arena. Local health officials and law enforcement will be on site during the performance to ensure the health and safety of the public, circus staff and animals.

In an email to staff at the Lone Hickory Arena, PETA representatives claimed that the camel incident was just one example “of Lewis & Clark Circus’ longstanding disregard for public safety and animal welfare.” PETA’s press release also stated that the circus group had a “lengthy list of federal animal-welfare violations.”

“Camels and other animals suffer tremendously when they’re hauled around the country in hot trailers and forced to give rides and perform confusing tricks under the threat of a whip,” said PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on Lone Hickory Arena to protect animals and the public by banning this irresponsible outfit’s dangerous and archaic animal acts.”

The email sent to the Lone Hickory Arena referenced USDA warning citations against Lewis and Clark Circus from two years ago, however that data is no longer available to the public after the agency restricted the public’s access to the search tool for the Animal Care Inspection System on Feb. 3.

Phillip Sadler, who runs the ticketing agency for the Lewis and Clark Circus, said he was not familiar with the specific incident that happened in Maryland, but he did say the group was committed to the safety and well being of the animals as well as human staff members of the circus.

“I grew up in the circus business. The animals become part of the family in the circus,” he added.

The Lewis and Clark Circus is slated to perform at Farmington Dragway in nearby Mocksville later this month as well. As of press time, a representative with the dragway said they had not been contacted by PETA regarding the event.

By Kitsey Burns Harrison