GREENSBORO, N.C. -- About two dozen members of the nonprofit Speak Out for Circus Animals held signs outside Greensboro Coliseum Wednesday, protesting what they say is abuse of wild and exotic animals.
"These animals are called wild for a reason,” said protestor Sarah Hodges. “They're used to the wild. They're used to roaming in their natural habitats."
The group protests every year outside every circus in the city.
This year they've put up an electronic billboard on Gate City Boulevard a few blocks away, protesting this week’s shows from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
President of the group Colleen Smith says their goal is to eventually get the city to ban circus acts that use animals.
"They have them chained up and caged, traveling from city to city,” Smith said. We would like them to become an animal-free circus."
"We are all for circuses,” Hodges said. “Just not the wild animals in the circuses."
But Stephen Payne, a spokesperson for Ringling Bros. and the vice-president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, says the circus provides 24/7 care for each of the animals in the show.
"Sadly the people who are out protesting in the street have not taken time to really learn about our animal care or come and see for themselves," he said.
Payne says the animals part of their circus are inspected by animal welfare officials in almost every city toured.
Payne says the company has a group of veterinarians and staff who travel with the animals and prepare the areas where they'll be kept to make sure they're comfortable.
"We're very proud of our care,” Payne said. “We hope people will take the opportunity to see for themselves."