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Zippos Circus supports World Horse Welfare - the new name for the International League for the Protection of Horses.
For more information about the work of World Horse Welfare, please visit www.worldhorsewelfare.org



   

To whom it may concern

ZIPPO’S Circus Queens Park Glasgow.

I am the Chief Superintendent of the Scottish SPCA and have completed 22 years service, I am based at Scottish SPCA Headquarters, Kingseat Road, Halbeath, Dunfermline KY11 8RY.

At 1pm on Tuesday 9th of June 2009 accompanied by Scottish SPCA Inspector William Linton I visited the above Circus at the Invitation of Mr. David Hibling.
We were met and invited onto the site where we were shown 4 Horses that were turned out in a 75-meter square enclosure, which was surrounded by a security fence to keep dogs away from the horses, and not to contain the horses, which are normally behind an electric fence. These horses were in excellent bodily condition and had access to both food and water. No shade was provided in the enclosure, however, it was explained to us that the horses are constantly monitored and if heat becomes an issue the horses are returned to their stable accommodation. We were then showed us the feed supply for the horses which is held in a separate articulated lorry. Ample good quality food and hay was available.

I then asked to see how the horses were transported between venues and shown the Horsebox lorry. This lorry is constructed to a high standard and each horse has a separate stall, each stall can be inspected from the outside individually. The lorry is also fitted with a water tank to enable the horses to drink in-between venues.
The temporary horse stables are attached to either side of a very large trailer, they are of sufficient size and robustly constructed. The stables are sheltered above with a white painted roof (to reflect heat) and covered at the side. We were asked if we could provide details of local veterinary surgeons that specialise in horses. The names and contact numbers of two veterinary surgeons were given by Inspector Linton. We were told that there was no problem with the horses or ponies, but it was the Circus policy to always obtain contact details of local veterinary surgeons in case of emergency. The Circus travels with a Rice trailer in case a horse has to be transported to a veterinary practice.

We were then shown three Falabella ponies in a separate stable area, again these ponies were in excellent condition and had access to food and water.
We were then introduced us to Mr. Norman Barrett who is the ringmaster for the Circus and who has a budgerigar act. Mr. Barrett showed us 15 budgerigars, which are housed in the rear of a large van. The rear of the van has been converted into an aviary, which affords the birds plenty of space to fly in. Mr. Barrett, Inspector Linton and I entered the aviary, which was very clean with ample food and clean water available. Mr. Barrett explained his care of the budgerigars all of which were very tame and obviously very used to being well handled. All birds were in excellent condition. The only time the budgerigars are caged is to transport then to and from the circus ring. The birds are kept in Mr. Barrett’s trailer overnight.

The Circus was content for Inspector Linton and I to enter any part of the Circus site and both have offered an open invitation for Scottish SPCA Inspectors to visit the Circus at any time, either in Glasgow or at any other Scottish venue.
I have no concern over the welfare or care of any of the horses, ponies or budgerigars on site and I am happy with the transport available for the animals.

Yours sincerely

Michael Flynn MBE, Chief Superintendent

 


 
A Day in the life of Zippos Circus' Horses

 

Whilst the rest of the circus is still asleep several people are awake and stirring. It is 7.00 am and Yasmine Smart, the circus horse trainer, together with her grooms begin their day of caring for Omega, Rolex, Cartier and Bronze, four palomino Arabs, Buzz and Woody the two Falabella miniature horses and Diamond, an Andalusian stallion. Yasmine employs two full time grooms to ensure she has enough staff to meet the requirements of the horses. In addition, other members of the Circus staff play a role in the care of the horses especially during performances and when the circus moves. First job in the stables is an early morning drink and breakfast of fresh hay. Whilst the horses eat the grooms begins the ritual of “mucking out” the daily early morning cleaning familiar to any one who cares for horses whether it be in racing stables or a riding school. The circus has long since abandoned hiring skips for waste removal and travels its’ own ensuring prompt and hygienic removal of soiled bedding.

With the stables clean and the horses refreshed only then can grooms and Yasmine enjoy their own breakfast. Once the morning meal has been digested the horses are taken to a deserted and quiet Big Top devoid of all the usual colour and razzmatazz of the performance, for rehearsal. This is an important time for both trainer and horse as it is during the next couple of hours that their working relationship is cemented. The only sounds are Yasmine’s words of encouragement, the horses’ hoofs pounding in sawdust and a radio playing so that the animals are familiar and relaxed with the sound of music. After some gentle exercise the horses will practice and learn a new routine that will be presented in the circus next season. It is slow, patient work with any new development often unnoticed by an untrained eye but to Yasmine each rehearsal brings rewards as the new act takes shape and the animals grasp what is being asked of them. For the horses themselves the morning exercise stimulates them both physically and mentally.

Practice over the horses can relax and return to the stables or are turned out into paddocks for the rest of the morning. In the paddocks they can graze, run, associate as a herd and simply “be horses”. The horses are never left unattended, Yasmine or one of the grooms, are never far away and are always on hand to ensure the horses always have food or water if and when required. In addition to a constant supply of hay on demand (horses are browsing animals) the animals also receive a daily ration of “hard” feed – a special mix of concentrated horse food together with any vitamins or minerals they may require.

In the afternoon with hay nets filled the troupe is back in the stables. Each horse has an individual “loose-box” rather than being tethered in stalls. The boxes were designed by Zippos Circus in consultation with animal welfare groups, and allow the horse freedom of movement, whilst each animal can view and communicate with his companions.

The afternoon is spent grooming the horses ready for the circus performance. However, no amount of brushing will result in a glossy and shining coat if the individual animal is not on form within himself and content with his surroundings. The horses enjoy good health but the Circus does have a veterinary consultant who will attend the horses at the circus if required, whom it has employed for many years and knows the animals well. The circus horses are regularly inspected by independent experts, for example Council Animal Welfare Officers will make routine (often un-announced) inspections of the circus and as the circus appears in parks operated by many different Local Authorities throughout the circus season the animals may be inspected many times – far more than the average horse whether kept as a working animal or as a private pet. The condition of the circus horses has consistently won praise and widely acknowledged – it even earned them a place in the special equestrian spectacle that was staged to honour the Queen during her Jubilee.

Just as the morning practice confirms the relationship with their trainer, the afternoon grooming is an important way of the horses building trust and affection with the grooms. Both exercises are ways of teaching human and animal about each other - likes, dislikes, moods, temperament and little individual character traits.
The circus normally gives two performances a day, in the afternoon and evening. The horses’ acts last about fifteen minutes and the routines showing off the natural aptitudes of the animals remain a firm favourite with the thousands of families who visit Zippo’s each year. After the horses have worked, content they will settle down for the night. Hay nets are filled once again and fresh, clean straw will be laid down in the boxes as soft bedding for the animals’ comfort._Once the animals are bedded down, the horse carers can snatch a couple of hours relaxation for themselves, but before they sleep a final check on the animals is made before retiring to their own mobile homes parked next to stables - ever close to the animals that partner their everyday life.

P.S._Once a week the circus “pulls-down” and moves to a new venue. Although much of the horses’ daily routine remains unaltered small gestures are made throughout the day to ensure a smooth journey to the next circus site. As things are used and no longer required they are packed away, for example after morning exercise the paddocks are taken down and stored. The horse transporter will have been checked for the journey and during the morning of the move the grooms will ensure that hay nets are placed inside ready for the horses so the animals can eat during the short distance between venues.

A day or so before the circus actually departs from a venue the next site has already been “marked out” – this is the process whereby the tent master of the circus marks out the position of the show on the new venue. The tent master also marks out where the horse stables will be situated on site. During marking out a spare set of stakes (the metal pins that secure the tents to the ground) are hammered into place - this is a time saving exercise to ensure a speedy erection of the tents when the circus arrives on the new site. The circus has always positioned the horse acts early or midway during the actual circus performance thus whilst the horses are working in the last performance (usually an early evening one) their stables are already being dismantled. The horses leave the Big Top and are prepared for the journey, loaded and the final few items of the stables packed away.

It is a familiar routine worked out for speed, comfort and efficiency to ensure that journey times for the horses are kept short. The horses transport and grooms leave the site before the final circus performance is over. The transport for the horses is modern and conforms to all regulations, close circuit television enables the driver to check on the horses during the journey and a water tank is fitted so the vehicle has a water supply. (The circus ensures there is a mains supply of fresh water at each venue and employs a member of staff whose first task upon arrival is to connect the water to the circus by way of hosepipes - with the stables being first to have access).

As soon as the convoy arrives at the next site the stables are immediately erected, the loose boxes positioned and the horses unloaded thus ensuring time spent in transport is kept to a minimum. As the rest of the circus begins to arrive at the new location the horse stables are already in place, the animals themselves fed and watered and bedded down for the night.

As soon as the convoy arrives at the next site the stables are immediately erected, the loose boxes positioned and the horses unloaded, normally in under an hour, thus ensuring the time the horses spend in transport is kept to a minimum. As the rest of the circus begins to arrive at the new location the horse stables are already in place, the animals themselves fed and watered and bedded down for the night.


Zippos Circus and animal rights

Zippos Circus was represented on the Government working group on the new ANIMAL WELFARE BILL - helping to set new standards for circus animal welfare. Zippo's dedication to circus animal welfare and artistry was recognised in receiving awards for the Best Equestrian Act, in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 and in 2006 and Yasmine herself has won more awards for excellence than any other professional circus artiste including two silver clowns at the prestigious Monte Carlo Circus Festival and a special award for Equestrian Excellence at the Festival of the Horse in the City of Verona.



Q: I have heard animal rights people are against the use of animals in circuses, even horses. Who are Animal Rights?
A: Animal Rights believe none of us have the right to own animals or eat meat; "The most important thing you can do is go vegan." says a contemporary Animal Rights advocate, Professor Francione,
(Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law & Philosophy at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, USA.)

For more see: www.animal-law.org

Further, Professor Francione argues that animal welfare regulation is theoretically and practically unsound, and he is against setting up welfare legislation for animals. For Animal Rights the issue is not how the animals in our care are treated, rather that we should not own pets or companion animals at all.

For more see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_L._Francione

Zippos Circus is not persuaded by such extreme arguments, but operates within UK and European law, with training, transportation and general animal husbandry, which is of the very highest standard. Zippos are strong advocates of excellence in Animal Welfare and have asked successive Governments to introduce legislation force the external regulation of Circus animals by independent vets and other animal experts. To date no such legislation has been offered, and Zippos is still waiting. Meanwhile Zippos has its own “Code Of Conduct” for the use of Domestic Animals in our circuses.

For more, click here to read Zippos Code of Conduct