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A local company who owns Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is ponying up a record fine for allegedly mistreating animals.
Vienna, Virginia-based Feld Entertainment has agreed to pay the $270,000 fine for allegations that they violated federal animal welfare laws. It’s the largest fine ever assessed under the Animal Welfare Act.
Feld was accused of several Animal Welfare Act violations dating back to 2007. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says inspectors found circus handlers made elephants perform when they were ill, and used wheelbarrows to feed meat to tigers which were also used to haul away their waste.
The report also cited splintered floors and rusted cages used to contain big cats and several instances of zebras escaping their enclosures.
Feld Entertainment, which also owns other well-known acts like Disney on Ice, says the settlement is not an admission of guilt but that they simply wanted to resolve its differences with the USDA.
"We look forward to working with the USDA in a cooperative and transparent manner that meets our shared goal of ensuring that our animals are healthy and receive the highest quality care," said a statement released by Kenneth Feld, chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment.
Ringling has also agreed to hire a compliance officer as part of the settlement. They will make sure employees follow rules outlines in the Animal Welfare Act. All employees will also have to undergo compliance training.