Less than a week after the City of Wenatchee passed a new ordinance banning exotic and wild animals from performing within its jurisdiction, a traveling circus elephant less than 500 miles away escaped and briefly ran amok through downtown Butte, Montana.

The elderly elephant, Viola, is owned by Oklahoma-based Carson & Barnes Circus and was in Butte as part of performances by Jordan World Circus, who staged two shows without elephants or other wild animals at Wenatchee's Town Toyota Center last week.

Reports indicate Viola escaped from Jordan's staging area at the Butte Civic Center in the 1300 block of Harrison Avenue on Tuesday, and wandered several miles away in a panicked state through traffic-filled streets and busy business parking lots.

Kris Cameron of the local animal rights advocacy group North Central Washington for Animal Compassion (NCWAC) says she's grateful the City of Wenatchee will no longer allow animals like Viola to perform locally.

"We're really excited. This is such a positive step for exotic and wild animals. We are a little disappointed due to the fact that domestic animals used in circuses don't suffer any less than wild or exotic animals but this is a very positive step for animals and for our city on behalf of not only animal welfare but also public safety."

The City of Wenatchee's new ordinance still allows domestic pets and farm animals like cats, dogs, cattle, and horses to perform at circuses and rodeos, and also includes limited exceptions for the use of wild and exotic animals as part of accredited educational activities.

KW3 logo
Get our free mobile app

Cameron says although the ordinance is a victory for local animal rights, she still harbors concerns regarding the use of all animals at traveling performances as it pertains to public safety.

"Frankly, we're still concerned about the public safety aspect. Especially since the circus that comes here puts audience members, particularly kids, in direct contact with animals. These animals are under tremendous stress from exhaustion and being in loud, bright, and unfamiliar environments and it's just a recipe for disaster."

According to the international animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Tuesday's escape attempt is Viola's third in the past fifteen years.

PETA claims the escapes are directly linked to decades of abuse and forced performances that include grueling and painful stage tricks, electroshocking, and whippings with a sharp steel-tipped weapon called a bullhook.

The group also alleges Viola's supplier, Carson & Barnes, has been cited for more than 100 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Jordan is scheduled to have 20 additional performances in Montana over the next 12 days, including in the cities of Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman, and Billings, none of which have ordinances banning the use of elephants with traveling circuses.

More From KW3