Dear Editor: An elephant named Topsy, currently traveling with the Piccadilly Circus, tested positive for tuberculosis. As you may know, the Piccadilly Circus recently performed at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. Luckily, Topsy was not traveling with Piccadilly at the time. However, Topsy, who is handled by Franklin Murray of Elephant Walk, is scheduled to be at the Bristol Renaissance Faire this summer.
Transmission of TB may occur during activities such as touching or riding an elephant, and being touched by an elephant. Although there has been significant progress in TB testing for elephants, there are still many cases where an elephant has tested negative for TB only to test positive at a later date. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s animal welfare regulations require all captive elephants to be periodically tested for TB. In addition, due to the possibility of humans transmitting TB to elephants, those who have direct contact with elephants should be tested for tuberculosis on at least an annual basis.
Murray has been accused of animal cruelty by the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This is a good reminder of the cruelty that occurs in the circus and that elephants in the circus are a public safety risk. I thank the Dane County supervisors for making the wise decision to ban elephant performances.