Stop Circus Suffering

Circus elephant Benny stuck in Mexico – Benny’s Story

Benny, an elephant previously with Circus Vasquez, has been languishing in a Mexican government facility, Zacango Zoo in Toluca, near Mexico City. Read his story here.


ADI was alerted to the case of Benny, an elephant previously with Circus Vasquez, by the office of renowned TV presenter Bob Barker, a great friend of ADI. Benny has been languishing in a Mexican government facility, Zacango Zoo in Toluca, near Mexico City, after being seized when Vasquez crossed the border from the US into Mexico without valid paperwork. Zacango is part of Mexico’s protected area for captive wildlife.

ADI immediately contacted the Mexican authorities and employed a Mexican lawyer to establish Benny’s legal status, and start applying pressure and open negotiations. We arranged for ADI local representatives and Ed Stewart of PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary), California, to visit Benny and make an assessment of his position. They reported that Benny is currently in reasonably good physical shape, but he is in a temporary facility and needs proper space. ADI and PAWS have committed to doing everything possible to bring Benny to the PAWS sanctuary in the US.

Benny is in the middle of a legal and administrative tangle, so in order to prevent the circus from trying to take him back, ADI has launched a legal action to freeze any moves by the Mexican authorities to hand him back to the circus.

Poor Benny is another example of the large numbers of almost invisible animals lost in the US circus and entertainment industries, being shunted from place to place with nobody to protect them.
Benny is also an example of the USDA’s inability to monitor and enforce the regulations that fall under its jurisdiction. Benny’s seizure by the Mexican government was based on Circus Vasquez’s failure to have the proper CITES permit. ADI has recently sent a number of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to the USDA, but so far the USDA has indicated that they have no records regarding Benny’s seizure in Mexico, or Circus Vasquez’s failure to have a CITES permit.


Benny’s family is spread all over the circus industry. His father, Vance, sired the circus elephants Mickey, Benny, Bo and Luke. Mickey is with Carson & Barnes Circus, Luke is with circus trainer Patti Zerbini, Bo is with the George Carden Circus, Ned is now dead (having been seized by the USDA last year but was too sick to survive) and Benny is in Mexico. All of these bulls were born at Busch Gardens in Florida and owned by circus trainer Roman Schmidt.

Benny was separated from his mother when he was a few months old and trained to perform when he was still a baby. He was sold to Trunks & Humps, of Texas, who then sold him to a Vasquez circus, apparently illegally. He was transported to Mexico to perform, and then seized by the Mexican government. The only reason that Benny is not in the circus now, is that the Mexican government were diligent about their duties – unlike the US Fish & Wildlife and USDA, who allowed this illegal export to take place.

ADI and PAWS are determined to help Benny. Please help us.


1. Write letters to your federal legislators and ask that Congress conduct hearings on the lack of enforcement by federal agencies which allows circuses to play the shell game with endangered animals.

2. Write, call, or email the Minister of Tourism in Mexico and ask that Benny be returned to the United States, but not returned to the circus industry. He should not be living in a tiny space as an attraction for tourists.

Rodolfo Elizondo Torres
Minister of Tourism
Av. Presidente Masaryk #172
Chapultepec Morales 11587
Mexico City, Mexico
Tel. +52(55)

Contact Mexico tourism offices in the United States:
Mexico Tourism Board
21 East 63rd Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10021
Telephone: 1-800-44MEXICO
Mexico Government Tourist Office
4507 San Jacinto, Suite 308
Houston, TX 77004
Telephone: 1-713-772-2581

3. If you plan travel to Mexico, voice your disapproval of Benny’s situation. Try to get support from Mexican citizens and animal welfare organizations.

4. Make a donation to ADI to help the campaign and help cover the legal moves to stop him from going back to the circus.

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