USDA files complaint over treatment of circus elephants

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ST. LOUIS (AP) _ A company hired by Moolah Shriners to stage a circus in suburban St. Louis is accused in a federal complaint of mishandling elephants during two shows in Missouri and Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture alleges in the April 28 complaint that during a March 2014 show in St. Charles near St. Louis, Florida-based Royal Hanneford Circus ginned up crowd noise that spooked three elephants. Those animals briefly got loose on the arena’s parking lot, though no one was injured.

The USDA also alleges that three weeks later in Altoona, Pennsylvania, handlers of those elephants wrongly watered the animals in a publicly accessible area.

Messages left Friday with Royal Hanneford and fellow respondent Oklahoma-based Carson & Barnes Circus, which leased the elephants to Royal Hanneford, weren’t immediately returned.