Stop Circus Suffering

Help Save Krissy & Boo

Beaten, chained, passed from one owner to the next: the sad lives of Boo and Krissy – the elephants the USDA left behind.

Krissy and Boo, Bailey Brothers Circus

On August 22, 2009 we were delighted as circus elephants Tina and Jewel were confiscated by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Leggett, Texas. They were taken to San Diego Zoo.  The elephants were owned by the notorious Wil (Wilbur) Davenport.

Tragically the elephant Boo (also known as Queenie) who ADI met during our investigation of US circuses was left behind – chained to a tree. Davenport surrendered his USDA exhibitor’s license.  And just a few miles away Boo’s one time companion, Krissy, remained with the Swain family.  (Boo and Krissy, pictured above).

ADI is fighting on behalf of Krissy and Boo, and urging the USDA to take action.

On October 26, 2009, The USDA filed formal charges against Wilbur Davenport for multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The charges state that “the gravity of the violations alleged…is great” and that Davenport has “not shown good faith” in his repeated unwillingness to comply with AWA regulations. The charges include:

  • Defying federal officials. Three counts of abusing and harassing USDA/APHIS officials, including refusal to give federal officers access to animals and facilities.
  • Seven counts of failure to provide minimal veterinary care to the elephants between March 2008 and August 2009, including failures to provide appropriate tests, vaccinations and to keep records of life-threatening weight loss that was documented, chronic and visible.
  • Failing to handle elephants safely and humanely: Four counts, including an incident in Indianapolis when all three elephants were used to give rides and one elephant (Boo) and 13 people, many of them children, were injured.
  • Failing to abide by welfare standards: Five counts of violating the minimum standards of the AWA including failure to protect the elephants from extreme temperatures and failure to provide food of sufficient quantity and nutritive value.

Under the AWA, penalties of up to $2500 for each day of each violation can be assessed against Davenport, and consideration is to be given to the gravity of these violations and to his failure to show compliance – good faith. Interfering with the duties of federal officials, as Davenport is alleged to have done, can result in up to three years of imprisonment.

The Background

An ADI field officer first met Asian elephant Boo (who has also been known as Baby Ruth and Queenie) and African elephant Krissy/Chris (both names are used) in 2004; Boo was then 35 years old and Krissy about 20 years old.

At that time, Mike Swain (who does business as Progressive Pachyderms) claimed that he owned Boo. He told our field officer that Krissy was owned by his father, Bill Swain, who does business as Trunks and Humps.

Mike Swain was touring that year with Bailey Brothers Circus, and our field officer worked alongside him for two months filming and recording how the elephants lived.

View the Undercover Footage here

During the day, the elephants lived in a small electric fenced enclosure and at night (from about 9.30pm) were chained inside the trailer. Typically, they were unshackled and let out of their semi/trailer about mid-morning, after spending the night for about 13 hours chained with no water. Mid-afternoon they would be prepared for elephant rides and then the show. The elephants were chained at least 54% of the time. Whenever Mike Swain left the site or was inside his trailer (usually every day for two to four hours), Krissy would be chained to the semi by a leg due to her repeated attempts to escape. This chain was only 2½ feet long, severely restricting her movements.

When the circus moved on, the elephants spent excessive periods of time stuck in the trailer. They would be moved out at about 6am (still in the semi from the previous night); they remained chained in the trailer for the duration of the journey; then on arrival they waited in the trailer a further 2-3 hours while the site was set up.

On one occasion, they spent the whole day inside the trailer traveling to a Hindu festival to give rides. A couple of days later, they traveled from Austin to Kansas and did not leave the trailer for the entire day. They had been out of the trailer for only six of the previous 72 hours, and that had been to give rides at the festival. The next day, the elephants were driven to Butler, Missouri and were not let out of their trailer until noon. Krissy was immediately chained up outside and was unchained only for the afternoon show.

When the trailer door was not secured properly during the day she would bang on it with her trunk. Krissy often threw objects (hay, stones, feces, dirt, rubber dishes) at people, both circus workers and members of the public. She would often eat rubbish found in her enclosure, such as plastic and paper bags. When fed by the public she would snatch the plastic/paper bag containing the food and eat everything. Krissy frequently tried to escape, even dismantling the electric fence on several occasions (Swain thought she was becoming accustomed to the electric shock). She threw hay, grass and stones at people and had a reputation for aggression, cornering and pushing circus workers.

Elephants are designed to travel long distances each day, browse a variety of plants, and have a highly developed social structure. Keeping such large, powerful animals in temporary accommodations has a severe impact on their welfare, because they are constantly chained. In such confined and deprived conditions they literally go out of their minds. We call it circus madness.

ADI caught Mike Swain on video cruelly beating Krissy with a bullhook, dragging her to the ground with the hook, and then kicking her in the face as he screamed at her. Boo cowers next to her. Swain was also filmed hittting the elephants with a golf club and giving them electric shocks.

Bailey Brothers Circus elephant being kicked
Bailey Brothers Circus elephant being kicked


USDA Complaint

ADI presented our evidence to the USDA, but we were told in April 2009 that they would not be taking further action because Swain had told them that he did not currently own any elephants, nor was he currently handling any.

We therefore continued to track these two elephants. This year Krissy was back with Mike Swain’s father Bill doing elephant rides and Boo was performing for the Davenport family. And who had been running Bailey Brothers Circus where we filmed the savage abuse of the elephants? The Davenport family.

In 2007 and 2008, Boo/Queenie appeared with Tina and Jewel for the Davenports at Circus Vasquez (named Queenie for one year, Boo the next). In the 2009 season, she performed at Will Davenport’s Hamid (Midian Shrine) Circus. Will Davenport claims that Bill Swain, who sold her to Gopher (John) Davenport (aka John Lewis), previously owned Boo.

Krissy has continued to perform for the Swain family. In April, as the USDA told us he was no longer handling elephants, Mike Swain posed for a picture with Krissy – on her knees, a front leg raised in the air, with Mike Swain next to her holding a stick or bullhook and grinning at the camera.

We tracked the Swains this year and found Krissy giving elephant rides with two other elephants, Jean and another African elephant believed to be Nanda – all three of these poor animals were taken from the wild. When she wasn’t giving rides, she was chained up. And guess who is reported to have previously owned Krissy? John (Gopher) Davenport.

There is also evidence that Mike Swain has owned a 35-year old female African elephant called Spanky since 1996; the USDA needs to follow this up.

ADI has submitted a new dossier to the USDA on the Swains and the Davenports and their elephants, and we are insisting that a new investigation is launched.

You can help Krissy and Boo
Write to the USDA today:

Tom Vilsack,
Secretary of Agriculture,
U.S. Department of Agriculture,
1400 Independence Ave. S.W.,
Washington, DC 20250;
APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea:
Phone: 202-720-3861.

  • Thank them for protecting Tina and Jewel:
  • Urge them to return to Leggett, Texas, and confiscate Boo/Queenie who is now living in isolation.
  • Ask them to extend the USDA’s investigations to Bill Swain of Conroe and Mike Swain of Cut and Shoot, Texas, who regularly work with Davenport.
  • Urge them to seize Krissy/Chris, Jean, Nanda, and Spanky.
  • Remind them of the video of horrific abuse and deprivation Krissy and Boo/Queenie endured at the hands of Mike Swain in a circus run by the Davenports.

You can also Donate to ADI to help support our ongoing campaigns.


  1. Joy Benton · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Stop the suffering of elephants please!

  2. Susan Uhl · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    There are many sanctuaries that love and care for these animals, and they deserve to be put into a place that cherishes their lives. Circus animals once were a novelty, but not in this day and age, it is cruel and unnecessary to keep exotic animals for entertainment , or to kill them for body parts , or turn them into trophies. Trophies are given not taken.

  3. Joslynne Davidson · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    A petition helps. Care2 petitions seem to work wonders. I looked for a petition but didn’t find one

  4. haley barnes · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Dear God stop this cruelty!!! No animal deserves this treatment!! Protect our planets species! Every one of them not just our own! Please put a stop to this!!!!

  5. DES MAINARDI · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Help free them from the misery and torture

  6. ken maguire · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    shame on mankind for the disrespect of our fellow earthlings

  7. Diane Nassir · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    No more cruelty, abuse, exploitation, enslavement, murder-free all wild animals to sanctuaries immediately and absolutely!

  8. alezxandria L · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    The world need to stop animals abuse to domestic and wild animals. It is prove that animlas have feelings and feel pain. They need our love and respect. Jail and death penalty for animals abusers in the US or any part of the world. STOP cruelty MORE love for them

  9. Kathi adams · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Please take these elephants away from these horrible owners and allow them to be free!! It cruel and not right! Let these elephants be free from abuse!! These men need to be jailed for a long long time!!

  10. janina teodoro · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Praying that thse 2 precious elephants get rescued and brought to a sanctuary where they can live out the rest of their lives in freedom and happiness.

  11. Doris Jonsson · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Howe evil the human could be. Its so horrible. Poor elephants. Does those humans do the same whit there family.

  12. Fleur Assemakis · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Please continue to expose these appalling stories of cruelty.
    I’ve just sent and email to the USDA APHIS administrator Kevin A. Shea.

  13. Oksana Brodie · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    This should be stopped!

  14. carol barton · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Wild animals should not be in circuses. It is degrading and cruel.

  15. carol barton · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Still using animals in circuses is a disgrace. The general public are becoming outraged. Please stop promoting this obscenity

  16. Joann Dworkin · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Stop this cruelty!

  17. Pamela hickok · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Stop the cruelty to these magnificent elephants, put them in a sanctuary. What you are doing is obscene.

  18. Jane curry · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Shame on you people from the USDA. You people should have no hand in any animal today… You are not the group to be a lookout for any animal . Your eyes are full of money and a lack of education has cause all kinds of animal to suffer from your stupidity. You all should be jailed for your lack of compassion for our animals… Shame on all of you.

  19. Cindi MacDonald · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Please help Krissy and Boo from these awful cruel barbarians

  20. linda · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    I am absolutely appalled by the Bailey Brothers Circus and what they are doing to animals such as elephants,God knows what else they are abusing. All circuses that contain live animals should be banned. I believe all children should have videos in school of circuses so they can see first hand what these animals have to go through to perform. SICKENING

  21. Leslie · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Please save these elephants

  22. Donna Patz · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Thanks for protecting Tina and Jewl. Return Leggett, Texas and confiscate Boo/Queenie now living in isolation. Extend the USDA’s investigations to Bill Swain of Conroe and Mike Swain of Cut and Shoot, Texas who regularly work with Davenport. Seize Kriss/Chris, Jean, Nanda and Spanky. Remember the video of horrible abuse and deprivation Krissy and Boo/Queenie have suffered at the hands of Mike Swain in the circus run by the Davenports.

  23. Meghan · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Elephants should not be used for our entertainment.

  24. Margaret · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    horrified America would allow this to happen…what can we do to stop it

  25. Lesllyan Pagan · 7 January 2010 at 9:30a

    Wha can i do to help plc i be happy to put a pice in the puzle to help??

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