Traveling Animal Shows

Take Good Care Of Their Business


by Sam Staffen 

My first 3 seasons in the carnival industry were spent as an attendant of a side show. I worked The Midget Horse and The Giant Horse and was directly involved with The Giant Pig, The Giant Alligator, and The Giant Steer. It was actually quite enjoyable and very very interesting. 

One of the main obstacles, shall I say, was the National Humane Society. They have some employees and alleged representatives that have some very differing opinions of the side shows and the regular operation of one. Some like the side shows and some obviously hate them. 

The ones who hate them and think that it is abusive to animals are the most entertaining by far. Their complaints range from flat out weird to actually somewhat agreeable. But no matter what, they are very entertaining and animated in the opinions. 

In Xenia, Ohio I was working the Giant Horse stand and had an encounter that I still laugh about today. Heck! I'm actually snickering as I write this article. This lady comes up and introduces herself as a member of the National Humane Society and then states that she can get in free for observation. I knew she was trouble right away. No shame to her game for sure. 

Needless to say I charged her the 50 cents entry stating the Humane Society didn't own any life time membership to this stand. She payed very much begrudgingly. She then informs me that the horse had no water in the stall with him. She then notes that he didn't have grain either. She was appreciative that the horse had hay and actually complimented me on that. I told her that if she were to visit the 4-H horse barn she would realize that those horses didn't normally have water and grain in their stalls either. She left somewhat unhappy with my rebuttal. 

A little while later she comes back, and with 50 cents out. I turned down the fee and said that I knew who she was and remembered that she already had paid that day. It doesn't normally matter if they already paid that day but she was a member of the Humane Society and their members do receive special privileges. She goes in, and as she does, I asked if she had been to the 4-H horse barns. She said yes. I then had to prod her for the obvious answer, did you notice that they didn't have any water or grain either. She said yes and immediately started to go off on me. 

She told me that it was cruelty to animals to have these animals penned up all day for the means of making a buck. She said a few other things as well. That is when I decided to let her have a little more, shall we say, informative information. I asked her if she noticed the scars on the horses behind(there were very visible white marks). She said that she did notice them. I asked her if she noticed that he was a gelding, which he was. She actually looked, as if being an actual equine expert, then said yes very hesitantly. I then told her that the scars were from the horse pullers who had previously owned him. They are from electric prods for making him put a little more effort into pulling for competitive purposes. I then informed her that my boss had purchased this horse from the pullers because he was no longer able to pull enough weight for competitions, and obviously his size. I then said that because he was gelded that he can't reproduce any more offspring. Then I stated that because of the scars on his behind that he could no longer be used in halter-type show classes.

I asked her if she owned any animals. She replied three dogs and cat. I then summed up all of this information about the Giant Horse for this fine female representative of the National Humane Society. I told her that if it were not for him being as large as he was, since he couldn't breed or pull or show, that he would probably be in her dogs food right now. Then, of course, I asked her, do you still think this is abuse, as I began to laugh out loud, in her face. She told me we'll see who gets the last laugh as she was walking away hastily. I replied that when it comes to me and her, I would always have the last laugh, because I would laugh until she was plum out of sight. I haven't seen that lady since.

The true fact of the matter is that the animals, definitely in this side show owners stands, are very well taken care of. Not even to mention the fact that he is only out for 4 and 1/2 months or so each year. The rest of the year the animals are freely running amok in their pastures or their pens. They also have to get regular veterinary checks to cross the state lines. I mean, come on, do you think a guy or gal making a living off of an animal would actually not take good care of that animal. It is, after all, his or her lively hood.

I actually taught my 3 different horses I watched, how to graze themselves throughout the season. I would let them loose and see if they would let me catch them. If they didn't I would chase them until they were caught and then immediately put them back in the show barn, or trailer, as in the midget horses case. A few brief interruptions of their free time, that they knew they had coming, and they had no problem allowing me to walk up and grab whenever I wanted for whatever purpose I wanted. Since I taught all three to graze themselves, I would actually doze off sometimes waiting for them to want to go back to their shows. The horse would actually wake me up to take him in every time I dozed off, without fail. Much less abuse them.

A person can tell if an animal is being abused if they take a good look. It isn't hard. And if you ever dealt with animal lovers, you know they will keep someone in check when they do see abuse. If they love dogs the most, every rotten dog owner in their sights hears from them. I was actually told on two occasions that my horse was colicing, by paying customers. Some customers, not knowing the possible harm, will feed the horses candy apples (even though a sign clearly states do not feed or touch) and it causes them to colic. Colic is when a horse has gas. A horse has to walk or run off the gas. Because they don't throw up they have to poop it out. A horse can't do that while tied up in a stall. I had to close my stand, take the horse out of the stand, for all to see for free, and walk him until he pooped. We didn't even abuse them when it obviously cost my boss money.

You will find out that a very large portion of the animals traveling around with carnivals are well kept. The ponies in the pony rides, the tigers and lions in the circus type acts, the elephants and lamas and other animals in the petting zoos, and the many other types of animals for the many other types of fair or festival or rodeo exhibits are all well fed, groomed, cleaned up after, and have regular vet check-ups for the purpose of not spreading disease, in order to go across every single state line. They are actually kept up with better than the average animal of their species.




Because without them, the owners aren't making the dollar.

I created the web site Only been in existence since February the 4th and already boasts possible the best free fair and festival listing on the internet. I haven't seen a better more comprehensive free listing than my own product. There are 48 pages of fairs and festivals at my site. There is also another 5 pages filled with many more relevant things directly associated with the carnival or amusement industry. Stop by and see and you'll have to agree.

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