COTTONWOOD – Jordan World Circus will be making a stop in Cottonwood Monday at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds for a show that “will thrill fans of all ages,” according to their ticket page.
But local activists say the show is anything but thrilling for the animals involved.
“It’s not amusing to the animals,” said Sedona resident Kathy Kinsella. “They are in pain, fear and anxiety.”
Kinsella along with protest organizers Karen Meilillo and Rebeka Coffey are trying to raise awareness about what they believe is exploitation and animal abuse in the circus.
“We’re trying to educate the public on what’s going on behind the scenes,” Coffey said. “I feel like in this day in age, any circus that is exploiting animals needs to be investigated.”
Coffey, who has been involved in animal rescue for 40 years, partnered with Meilillo when she saw her posts about the circus on Facebook.
Meilillo, a Lake Montezuma resident, said she is not a “leftist trying to cause problems.”
“But I love animals,” she said. “There is no doubt a misunderstanding … people don’t realize the animals are abused.”
This isn’t the first time groups have protested the Las Vegas-based circus. Where the circus goes, so goes the animal-rights advocates.
Jordan World Circus has been met with protests in Arizona cities such as Yuma and Tucson. The circus has also received backlash from animal activist groups in Washington, Oregon and Colorado.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a fervent in their opposition of Jordan World Circus. The group lists United State Department of Agriculture citations dating back to the 1990s on their website.
Citations include safety violations and failure to provide adequate veterinary care.
According to PETA, animals are leased from outside companies so they are no longer subject to future citations under their name.
Jordan World Circus did not respond to any requests for comment.
Meilillo said she especially takes issue knowing that the animals are leased.
“They’re being handled by different people each time,” she said. “In my mind, the trainer has to establish dominance again.”
Coleen Gilboy, director of the Verde Valley Fair, said she was alerted of the complaints and passed them along to the board of directors.
“This is the third year in the row the circus has come and the protesters never show up,” she said.
Gilboy also said since the circus isn’t“her” event, she’s not in a position to tell the organizers what to do.
“We don’t ever want anything here bad for kids and animals but people have opinions and we want to let them have them,” she said.
Protest organizers say there are other ways to expose kids to wild animals that don’t involve exploitation.
“If you want to expose your kids to a circus, do Cirque du Soleil,” Coffey said. “Families should make children aware of what needs of animals are and see animals in more natural environment.”
The protest will take place Monday, Sept. 10, at 3:30 p.m., at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds in Cottonwood.