The Ringling Brothers circus—without admitting wrongdoing—has paid $270,000 to settle federal accusations that it mistreated elephants, tigers, zebras, and other exotic animals. Federal inspectors found that a sick elephant was forced to perform, elephants' faces were cut by sharp edges in transport trailers, big cats were kept in rusty cages with splintered floors, and meat was delivered to tigers in the same wheelbarrows that their waste was hauled in, MSNBC reports.
The fine is the largest ever assessed against an animal exhibitor, according to the US Department of Agriculture. "This settlement sends a direct message to the public and to those who exhibit animals that the USDA will take all necessary steps to protect animals regulated under the Animal Welfare Act," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Ringling officials, who also agreed to implement yearly compliance training for all employees who work with animals, described the fine as a cost of doing business. (Read more circus stories.)