Free All Captive Elephants (FACE), is a dedicated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to rescue suffering elephants held captive in circuses and roadside zoos in North America. FACE is committed to getting elephants to sanctuaries accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). GFAS is the gold standard for sanctuaries.

The work of FACE is VITAL in getting captive elephants to the sanctuaries

waiting and ready to receive them.



Our mission is to provide education, intervention, and litigation that will lead to sanctuary for ALL elephants inhumanely held in captivity in circuses and zoos in North America.

Where will these elephants go?  FACE is dedicated to getting elephants to sanctuaries accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. GFAS is the gold standard for sanctuaries.


There are dozens of captive elephants in North America. Our vision is to ultimately see that ALL elephants in North America currently living in inhumane conditions are brought to accredited sanctuaries by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) to live out the rest of their lives. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel for circuses closing permanently.  Education and awareness is having a tremendous impact on attendance at circuses and people are deciding they do not want to contribute to the suffering of elephants, and all the animals anymore once they have seen the documentation of the neglect and abuse.  With the passage of the Traveling Exotic Animal and Pubic Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA), by the United States Congress, circuses with wild, exotic animals will be forced to close down across the nation. 

Kristin Leppert, Program Director – Wildlife, North, Central and South America of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), explains:

The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries recognizes and supports true sanctuaries that provide the highest quality of care for animals and exhibit ethical and operational excellence. GFAS Accredited Performing Animal Welfare Society in San Andreas, California and the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee are prime examples of true sanctuaries offering rescued elephants what they need: acres to roam, lakes to enjoy and most importantly, the company of their own species. 

True sanctuaries are not places animals go to die. True sanctuaries are where once captive elephants go to LIVE.”

ABOVE: The interior of Nosey’s trailer soaked with urine and feces. Prior to her seizure by local authorities, Nosey was placed back into her cargo travel trailer by a member of the Liebel family.  She was then left to stand in her own excremet for more than 30 hours striaght with little ventilation and light. Due to the inadequate size of the trailer, Noey was unabe to fully raise her head or make normal postural movements. Upon her arrival to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, one of Nosey’s diagnosis was muscle atrophy.  Her owners were later charged with animal cruelty.
ABOVE shows how Nosey was found alone by a local animal control officer in Alabama, chained by both front and hind legs and standing in her own waste. Hours later she would be taken to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee where she would receive much needed veterinary care by a team of experts for a variety of life threatening ailments. Today, Nosey continues to thrive at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

ABOVE IS NOSEY TODAY. This photo of Nosey was taken just a short time after she arrived at the sanctuary after she was seized

in Alabama on November 9th, 2017. Nosey is grazing peacefully AT THE ELEPHANT SANCTUARY IN TENNESSEE,

where she is thriving under the excellent care she has needed for so long.


WHY We Do What We Do

The closing of the infamous Ringling Brothers Circus in May of 2017 did not mark the end of cruelty perpetrated on elephants forced into captivity. Between 25-30 traveling circuses with caged, wild animals continue to travel and operate in the U.S.. Currently there are over 60 elephants (and hundreds of other animals) still being used for human entertainment. Circus animal cruelty and exploitation is rampant.

Photo by: Gigi Glendinning

Traveling wild animal performances are an antiquated form of animal abuse that has been going on for centuries. In circuses, elephants are forced to perform under threat of punishment and confined in cramped enclosures as they are hauled from venue to venue.

Performing elephants are deprived of all that is natural to them.

To train a wild animal into submission, methods used include beating, electric shock (hot shots), food and water deprivation and brutal intimidation.  Elephants do not stand on their heads, sit on stools, stand on their hind legs or give rides to humans on their backs because they want to, they do it because they are forced to with brutal training methods. Undercover Training of Elephants  These behaviors do NOT occur in the wild.

Photo of Betty: by Gigi Glendinning
Photo of Betty: by Gigi Glendinning
Photo of Nosey before her rescue, performing a trick with members of the audience on her back.
Above is Nosey standing in her cramped trailer while on the road going from one circus show to another. This was her life just as are many elephants just like her, forced to perform in traveling circuses.

The lack of exercise, constant confinement in cages, small enclosures required to transport elephants thousands of miles in extreme temperatures to perform 300 days a year, is detrimental to both their physical and psychological well being. There is no scenario where the needs of these complex animals can be met by a life on the road.  The research is clear on this.

The laws in place to protect elephants are weak and very rarely enforced.  Law enforcement authorities are not equipped or trained to handle the thousands of public complaints that are filed annually against exhibitors. Additionally, because of the transient nature of “circus life”, even if they are willing, government agencies are unable to enforce the laws. Many if not all circuses currently on the road, have extensive histories of Federal Animal Welfare Violations.  Agency’s inaction makes them complicit in the violations. As a result, captive elephants continue to suffer EVERY day while these agencies are not doing their jobs.

Asha – A solitary elephant at The Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia



What’s Wrong With Zoos?

No matter how expensive, “beautiful” or “natural looking” a zoo exhibit appears to be, the reality is many zoos cannot provide the environmental enrichment that comes close to an elephant’s life in the wild. This is especially true for solitary elephants.  Many zoos do NOT have the best interest of the elephants at heart. (Elephant Facts).
Many people think that,  “Zoos save endangered animals.”  The truth is, elephant breeding programs do not work!  The elephant species cannot be saved through captive breeding. It is a fact that captive elephants in both circuses and zoos die at a younger age than elephants in the wild and do not procreate well in captivity.

We encourage you to read this recent and very insightful article:  .Are Elephants Really Better Off?

Another school of thought says… “Zoos are educational”. This is false. NO education is taking place in zoos like the Natural Bridge Zoo. These roadside attractions perpetuate the idea to children that it is acceptable to put elephants on display to satisfy human curiosity. Looking at an elephant in a zoo such as Asha at the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia, serves no educational purpose. Asha’s existence and behaviors at this zoo bear no resemblance to that of elephants in the wild, so nothing is learned!  In the wild Asha would be part of a complex matriarchal herd and have deep social relationships. She would exercise by freely roaming for miles each day and foraging for food. She would play and swim to cool herself down and splash mud on her back to protect her sensitive skin from the hot sun. She would never give rides to thousands of people each year and would have little to no human interaction.
A true educational approach to learning about elephants is to read the research of those who actually study elephants in their natural habitats. Suggested reading include that of researchers like:

These world renowned scientists are experts in elephant behavior. In their work they witness, analyze and report on the extent of the intellectual and familial superiority of the elephant species.

Ideally elephants would never be removed from the habitat in which they are born. In a family environment much like ourselves, elephants need their herd to thrive emotionally and physically.  Because elephants learn essential survival and social skills from members of their herd, captive elephants do not have the tools they need in order to be reintroduced back into the wild.  At FACE  we believe the best alternative for elephants rescued or released from circuses or zoos, is a GFAS sanctuary. GFAS sanctuaries offer elephants the opportunity to heal their BROKEN bodies, BROKEN spirits, and live out the remainder of their lives as close to life in the wild as possible.