Dallas Bars Elephants From Circus

      DALLAS (CN) – A Texas judge Wednesday refused to stop Dallas officials from blocking two elephants from performing with the UniverSoul Circus, citing fears they have tuberculosis and may be a public health risk.
     The Atlanta-based circus sued the city and Dallas County Health and Human Services on Wednesday in Dallas County Court.
     The defendants said that elephants Bo and Betty cannot be exhibited during the circus’ current two-week run at the Southwest Center Mall because they tested “reactive” for tuberculosis and are a public health risk.
     “The defendants’ position, however, is neither legally nor scientifically justified and in fact is wholly arbitrary,” the circus says in its 13-page complaint, supported by 139 pages of exhibits and attachments.
     “In the event defendants are relying on the DPP Vet TB Assay for elephants from December 2014, this test serves only as a screening test to aid in the diagnosis of active tuberculosis. The DPP test is not definitive and often gives false positives.”
     UniverSoul said the elephants underwent a “more extensive and definitive” trunk wash test in January that came back clean, meaning the December results were false positives. It says the city and county refused to issue the required permits when given the updated test results.
     Hours after the lawsuit was filed, Associate Judge Monica McCoy Purdy declined to sign UniverSoul’s temporary restraining order against the defendants. The circus called the denial of permits “not supported by any statute, ordinance, regulation or law, and … arbitrary and capricious.”
     City officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
     Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson told the circus on July 27 that the county had consulted with the Texas Department of State Health Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture about the elephants before rendering a decision.
     “Given the potential transmission and tuberculosis from elephants that carry the disease to arena and circus workers, members of the public, and other animals, we believe that these elephants should not be exhibited,” Thompson wrote in a letter attached as an exhibit in the complaint.
     UniverSoul and other circuses have faced heavy criticism from animal rights activists for featuring elephant acts.
     People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claims UniverSoul “has a long history of contracting with notorious animal abusers” who have violated the Animal Welfare Act.
     “Handlers use bullhooks – sharp metal weapons resembling a fireplace poker – to cause pain and instill fear in elephants and to force them to perform unnatural and confusing tricks,” PETA says on its website, checked Thursday morning. “In addition to the cruelty inherent in elephant acts, two elephants currently on the road with UniverSoul – Betty and Bo, who are exhibited by Larry Carden – have yielded over five years of reactive tuberculosis tests, suggesting that they are likely TB-positive.”
     UniverSoul’s competitor, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, announced in March it would phase out its elephants by 2018.

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