Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Fall 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Department of Justice Studies


Glenn P. Hastedt

Terry D. Beitzel

Sue E. Spivey


The topic of animal abuse is a widespread, controversial issue within the United States. Animal abuse and neglect is commonly associated with food industry animals and domesticated animals; however, animal abuse is a problem within other industries, such as the circus industry. In particular, the circus industry is notoriously known by animal advocates for continuous violations to animal protection laws that hinder its animals’ welfare. Pressure by animals rights organizations and a growing public sentiment against the exploitation of circus animals, the industry has seen various changes in recent years including more stringent USDA enforcement and a transformation to programs that exclude animals entirely (most notably Cirque de Soleil). Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Cole Bros. Circus, and Carson & Barnes Circus have all experienced these changes while maintaining their animal performers. The purpose of this study is to analyze the prevalence of animal abuse in the industry and to draw conclusions to how the growing anti-animal movement is impacting the circus and vice versa with how a circus’s actions impact public perception via three comparative case analysis. This study seeks to determine where the circus industry stands in regards to animal involvement and what the future looks like.



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