In November 2011 Ringling agreed to pay a $270,000 civil penalty to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to settle claims that Ringling violated the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the Federal law that provides protection for animals used by circuses. This was the largest civil penalty ever paid by a circus for violation of the AWA.
A lawsuit against Ringling Bros. for violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) revealed evidence that Ringling routinely beats and severely confines elephants. Although Ringling got the case dismissed due to a technicality (the merits of the case were never ruled on), internal Ringling documents and Ringling employees' testimonies confirmed what activists have known for years:
(1) Taking baby elephants from their mothers while they are still nursing;
(2) Isolating babies from all other elephants;
(3) Tying up babies so they are severely restricted in their movement and not even able to turn around; and
(4) Hitting babies with bullhooks. According to Ringling employee testimony, one baby elephant was tied up for four months and only untied for 40 minutes a day to be trained. A truly traumatic ordeal for little baby elephants and their mothers. In 2009 a former Ringling elephant trainer provided PETA with photos he took of the training sessions. They are viewable on video. Video "Ringling Deprives Elephants of Life" is available here.
Ringling abuses all animals they use - additional videos are available showing how Ringling treats the tigers, horses and camels.