ST. LOUIS | An animal rights group placed a statue of a weeping, shackled baby elephant at a downtown St. Louis intersection Friday to protest what it calls animal cruelty in circuses.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it timed the installation of the 4 1/2-foot statue for the arrival of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Oct. 15-18.
PETA alleges that the circus mistreats its elephants, plucks them from their mothers and chains them for life. The group says an undercover investigation revealed the use of bullhooks to strike and yank the animals.
The circus' training director, Janice Aria, said Friday that the elephants are well cared for. She says the bullhooks, also known as "guides," are used by trained employees to amplify vocal commands.
The city had initially denied PETA permission to install the statue but changed course.
Mayor Francis Slay wrote Friday in his blog that city health department inspectors will monitor the health and treatment of the circus elephants while they're in St. Louis.
The statue is to be removed Monday.