Zor Shrine Circus brings elephants to Dane County for the final time


The group, who will end a contract with the Alliant Energy Center this year, had the elephant performances taken out of all future contracts.

For groups like Alliance for Animals in Madison, it’s the result of years of advocacy.

“You can’t find a way to justify it except for just pure, short term entertainment,” said Rick Bogle, who sits on the group’s board.

Third generation elephant handler Joey Frisco sees things differently.

“One bad apple or two bad apples or misinformation can turn into a bigger thing,” he said. “We just want people to know what we do and then they make their statement or their minds up what they want to do.”

Frisco, who has been with the circus almost his entire life, says animal activists groups misconstrue how the elephants are treated and cared for while on the road.

“I’m here with the elephants 24/7,” he said.  “I literally last night slept five feet from her right behind her.”

Bogle says other groups, like the Ringling Circus, have been exposed mistreating the animals in years past, leading to the discontinuation of using the animals in shows.

“They’re living in this very artificial environment,” he said. “They’re never really able to be an elephant, they have to just stand there and wait until they’re told to perform.”

While Frisco is in disagreement with the change in policy, he has seen other states, like Illinois, ban the practice as a whole. He says he’s unsure how much longer it will continue at all.

“I don’t even think the next generation will be able to see it, to be honest,” he said.