Circuses with elephants such as Carden International, Shriners, Loomis Bros, Tarzan Zerbini, Carson and Barnes, Culpepper & Merriweather, Royal Hanneford and Jordan World Circus all have brutal touring schedules and cover thousands of miles while dragging the animals along. Some elephants are forced to perform three times per day only to be chained up or placed in transport trailers between shows and locations. FACE tracks and documents these circuses through our boots on the ground, social media and other means of gathering intel. Our work has been successful in getting many venues to cancel these events once we notify and educate the state, local authorities and the media about the public safety risks and history of animal abuse by these exhibitors. We are able to take swift action by contacting both the hosting venues and local and state authorities to inform them of and provide them with documentation of the egregious animal welfare violations by the exhibitors as well as the public safety risks of hosting these shows. Our goal is to encourage circuses, either voluntarily or by legal means, with captive elephants, to close down and release their elephants to sanctuaries accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, (GFAS). FACE stands ready and willing to follow through with the necessary planning it takes to make sure the rescued elephants are properly placed in these sanctuaries.
The goal of our Education Program is to raise awareness of the suffering of elephants in circuses and roadside zoos with the ultimate goal of getting elephants released from captivity and sent to GFAS accredited sanctuaries to live out the remainder of their lives. FACE uses boots on the ground, our website, social media, fundraising campaigns and speaking engagements to increase awareness of our mission and vision to bring more supporters in to increase the impact of our work and raise the funds needed to achieve our goals. Raising awareness is KEY in reducing attendance at circuses. Once they no longer are able to draw a crowd, circuses will eventually realize the gig is up, and once and for all, stop touring the nation with the suffering animals. Many of the human entertainers hired to perform in the circus productions have wonderful talent, are entertaining and could draw audiences WITHOUT the use of animals. We do support animal free circuses. We work in collaboration with other organizations such as The Humane Society of the United States, In Defense of Animals, Animal Defenders International and the Animal Defense Partnership on behalf of elephants and other captive animals to increase our mutual effectiveness with ensuring that all elephants in North America currently living in inhumane conditions are freed and brought to GFAS sanctuaries to live out the rest of their lives.
FACE is excited to announce our plans to produce a documentary exposing the truth of what goes on behind the circus curtain, the lack of government action and what actions can be taken to put an end to this antiquated industry. We will talk about Nosey, a 39-year-old elephant held captive for 30 horrible years in a disreputable and run-down family circus in Florida along with many other elephants currently suffering today. FACE was instrumental in rescuing Nosey and helped facilitate her move to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (EST) where she is now living a life free of abuse, the opportunity to finally be with other elephants, and receiving the medical care she was denied for so long. This film will raise awareness about the plight of elephants held captive and suffering in roadside zoos and travelling circuses. As soon as the details of this film have been finalized, we will announce the beginning of our fundraising campaign to support its production and release.
FACE and our partners are responsible for most of the lobbying, new legislation and education that occurs in the U.S. on behalf of elephants in roadside zoos and circuses. We work to influence lawmakers to support legislative changes needed to alleviate the suffering of animals in circuses and roadside zoos including the passage of the federal Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA) which was reintroduced in November of 2021. When passed, TEAPSPA will prohibit traveling circuses that use exotic animals nationwide and will make the U.S. like over 40 other countries around the globe prohibiting circuses that use wild and exotic animals. FACE conducts protests, undercover documentation, boots on the ground advocacy, social media outreach, email campaigns, education, and awareness of circus abuse. Because of our tireless undercover and investigative work, lobbying, education and national exposure, FACE was instrumental in helping to rescue Nosey the elephant from the Liebel Family Circus, and securing a permanent home for her at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (EST). (Photo of Nosey before and after rescue) FACE administrators were contacted by Alabama authorities for assistance when Nosey was finally seized. FACE remained in contact with Alabama authorities up until the time Nosey was transported to sanctuary the following day. FACE also provided some of the documentation used as evidence at the custody hearing of Nosey’s owners Hugo and Franciszka Liebel.
Often our work to free captive elephants requires more than advocacy, and direct intervention becomes necessary. FACE utilizes our skills to conduct undercover investigations to document violations of the Animal Welfare Act as well as state laws and local ordinances. Recently, we have filed complaints in collaboration with The Humane Society of the U.S. and In Defense of Animals against the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), to deny permit renewal to the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia after years of documented violations of the Animal Welfare Act and state laws. FACE has also been working for over four years to free ASHA from the Natural Bridge Zoo.
Asha – A solitary elephant at The Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia. Asha is a 39-year-old African female elephant who was wild born in Zimbabwe somewhere between 1982-83. Asha lost her entire family herd in a horrific slaughter orchestrated by the government of Zimbabwe in 1984. She was sent to the USA by the Shultze Company to later be exploited by the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia at only two years old. Asha was a frightened baby destined for a life of human torture. And torture it has been. The Natural Bridge Zoo has nearly 150 Violations of the Animal Welfare Act and has had its permit suspended twice, only to have it reinstated just a short time later. Yet both state and federal agencies continue to renew the zoo’s exhibitor permit year after year. This failure to protect the welfare of captive animals is happening in other states across the U.S. and in Canada. (Please read more about our work for Asha on our CAMPAIGNS TAB.)
Our work on Asha’s behalf includes:
- Working with the legislature in Virginia to pass more laws to protect elephants under Virginia’s Comprehensive Animal Care laws which include the state’s anti-cruelty provisions.
- Conducting an advocacy campaign to raise awareness of Asha’s situation at the Natural Bridge Zoo.
- Our Billboard Campaign outside of Richmond, Virginia’s state capital, to raise awareness and urge suspension of the Natural Bridge Zoo’s operating permit.
- Working to ensure that Asha will be sent to a GFAS accredited sanctuary, such as The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), or The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, after she has been released or seized from the Natural Bridge Zoo.
The reality is that making real change on behalf of elephants in captivity often requires more than education, advocacy and intervention. FACE is skilled at working for legislative change which is the final step to achieving real change on behalf on animal welfare. We work with legislators around the country to improve the conditions and protections for elephants on both the state and federal level. Our team was the moving force behind the passage of “Nosey’s Law” in New Jersey in 2018, including giving testimony before the NJ Senate and Assembly Committees while working alongside now retired NJ Senator Raymond Lesniak. Nosey’s Law was the first of its kind in the nation to prohibit the use of elephants and other wild or exotic animals in a travelling animal act. Since then, many other states have followed suit by passing their own legislation on behalf of wild and exotic animals and other states are currently developing similar laws.
FACE has also been working with Senator David Marsden on more stringent regulations and enforcement for captive animals in Virginia. He and his staff have worked to propose legislation with the goal of ensuring that the Commonwealth of Virginia will, at a bare minimum, adopt the AZA (American Zoological Association) standards for zoos. This would prohibit any zoo from having less than three elephants. The AZA recognizes that elephants are highly social animals and keeping them solitary is inherently cruel. This action is a direct result of our meeting with Senator Marsden in 2019 and informing him about the plight of Asha the elephant at the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia.
FACE has been working for over four years to free ASHA from the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia. Asha is a 39-year-old African female elephant who was born in Zimbabwe somewhere between 1982-83. Asha lost her entire family in a horrific slaughter orchestrated by the government of Zimbabwe in 1984. She was sent to the USA by the Shultze Company to later be exploited by the Natural Bridge Zoo in Virginia at only two years old. Asha was a frightened baby destined for a life of human torture. And torture it has been. The Natural Bridge Zoo has over 100 Violations of the Animal Welfare Act and has had its permit suspended twice, only to have it reinstated just a short time later. Yet both state and federal agencies continue to renew the zoo’s exhibitor permit year after year. This failure to protect the welfare of captive animals is happening in other states across the US and in Canada. FACE has been working with the legislature in Virginia to pass more laws to protect elephants under Virginia’s Comprehensive Animal Care laws which include the states anti-cruelty provisions. We have been conducting an advocacy campaign to raise awareness of Asha’s situation at the Natural Bridge Zoo, including raising funds to cover expenses for a billboard outside of Richmond, Virginia’s state capital. Our goal is to raise awareness and urge suspension of the Natural Bridge Zoo’s operating permit. FACE will work to ensure that Asha will be sent to a GFAS accredited sanctuary, such as the Perferming Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), or The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (EST), after she has been released or seized from the Natural Bridge Zoo. (Please read more about our work for Asha on our CAMPAIGNS TAB.)