Circus elephants get loose, damage vehicles at Family Arena

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ST. CHARLES, MO (KTVI) - On the last day of the Moolah Shriner’s Circus Sunday, the show went on without three elephants that broke loose during Saturday afternoon's performance at the St. Charles Family Arena.

"We could feel the ground shaking underneath us,” said Sally Schmiz, who had just put her car in park behind the arena just before 5 p.m. Saturday.

"Before we could even say, 'What is it?' Here, an elephant head came right out between the RVs.”

Her two teenage sons were in the car, ready to volunteer at the circus. She had no idea that moments before, the animals had peeled open a steel sally port door and escaped from the arena.

"They came right in front of my car. They turned left and came right down the side of my car,” she remembered. "I just told them to hang on. I pushed it into reverse, and I could only go a few feet because cars were surrounding me."

Schmiz managed to snap several pictures of the three huge females stomping through the parking lot during a sold-out matinee. She said the animals were linked, tail to trunk, as they pushed between two parked pickups belonging to circus staff.

"The width was two feet. The elephants just mainly took the pickup trucks and moved them out. We saw car parts just being thrown up in the air. The windows were being smashed by the elephants."

Schmiz said it took trainers at least 40 minutes and lots of peanuts to get those elephants safely into a semi trailer. Circus spokesperson Dennis Burkholder said no one was injured. But, Schmiz said she saw a staff person with a gash on his head. She saw every available trainer and performer drop what they were doing to save every person and animal on that parking lot.

"The trainers and the handlers, they did everything just the right way."

Schmiz also said she went to the circus as a little girl, when her grandfather was a volunteer. To her, the elephants looked extremely agitated and tired as they moved their heads up and down and reared onto their hind legs.

Burkholder said this was the first time in the 72-year history of the circus this had ever happened. The team started an investigation into a cause and planned changes to make sure this never happens again.

Schimz admitted she was scared. But, she planned to bring her boys back to the circus next year.

"This was just a freak thing,” she laughed, nervously, “Of all the places to park.”

Friend me on Facebook:
Follow me on Twitter:
Email me:


  • jad

    You seem to care more about the damage to the cars then the elephants who should not be locked up in a circus in the first place. I hope this practice is changed in the next 10 years.

      • Susie Q.

        You forgot to add a PETA video or are the chickens, cows and pigs not get cruel treatment before being slaugther?

    • Steven Sweeney

      It’s a shame that a 3rd world country like Thailand can show us how to care for elephants..There elephants play soccer games in front of groups of people and donations are made to support them..The royal family took money from their own pockets to form a sanctuary and the elephants do this for fun and entertainment..with all the celebrities, CEOS, athletes, etc. why can’t we do this here? In california, Obama caused a man made drought for a lousy fish..(delta smelt) and now we all have to pay higher food prices..Why can’t federal land be set aside for an elephant sanctuary? Would be a great writeoff for somebody, and a great service for animals everywhere..

    • sally s.

      In 10 years!! why not now. Just don’t use them period. Start now!!!! We need one circus to step up and be the first one to start this non use of animals.Only performers and support that circus.

  • CrazyB

    I was kind of wondering if there were any injuries to the elephants. There was broken glass and sharp metal from the damaged vehicles.

    • sally s.

      I don’t think the elephants were hurt. They just didn’t what to be there. When we don’t feel good we take off work. They cant do this so they react in their own way.

      • CrazyB

        I agree. And it looks like they updated the story because now they say that the elephants weren’t injured. I wish they would get the stories straight before they post them instead of just trying to beat the other stations to the punch.


    Are dogs cats horses, and the rest of those cridders supposed to be free to roam around as nature made them ? Why not return all animals back to the wild.

    • sally s.

      The problem is almost 100% of circus animals are born in captivity. So they don’t know the wild and what they should do in it. But that does not mean we can take care of them problem. Stop using animals in the circus. The performers are talented enough they really don’t need the animals. I’d pay just to see the performers with out the animals.

  • Joe

    I’m shocked by the lack of proofreading in this report. It’s like a game, how many grammar mistakes can you find in this story?

  • lisa

    They were running from the abuse and torture they have to endure everyday for the families that pay money for their abuse,
    just to entertain their children.

  • morrow

    I have not been to the Saint Louis zoo in 35 years or more. When i was in the Navy and sailing around the globe seeing large creatures in the oceans in their natural habitat, it was hard to come home and see some of the same in those little pools of water so i found it hard to see the land animals caged up too. I have to give cable tv with all the nature shows credit for my different perspective on animals. When you look in the caged animals eyes, they look sad to me.

    • Susie Q.

      You forgot to add a PETA video or are the chickens, cows and pigs not get cruel treatment before being slaugther?

  • Christine

    Animals are not ours for entertainment. It is very arrogant to think that human beings are the only creatures that feel fear, affection for their friends and family or that suffer pain. Yes Susie Q. chickens, cows, and pigs are treated very cruelly from the moment of birth until they are slaughtered. If you are interested, there are many videos, photos and documentation of the inhumane treatment of animals that have nothing to do with PETA. Kraftig dogs and cats are pretty much incapable of caring for themselves in the wild. I would consider them refugees and in need of human intervention to survive. Horses if wild from birth should be capable of caring for themselves, but do not have the range available anymore. Do animals in general not deserve to be able to live their lives without interference from humans? Why do we think we know better what they want for themselves? Educate yourselves on the treatment of all animals in relation to food production, entertainment, fashion etc. and then you can criticize those who feel that many of these practices should stop. Try watching the movie “Earthlings” on youtube. for free. It is not associated with PETA. It many open your eyes.

  • Vicki

    have any of you even entertained the idea that something may have scared the elephants having been to many circuses and even worked one some I can see both sides but in the 6 years that I worked on them I never seen any abuse and I worked with the animals.

Comments are closed.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.