Even in the last decade, there has been a host of terrible publicity for circuses when it comes to their treatment of animal colleagues. In 2011, Feld Entertainment (the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus) was fined $270,000 by the United States Department Agriculture after they found numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act [source: Grove]. It was the largest fine on record, but note that it probably didn't do much damage to the $1 billion annual revenue bottom line [source: Grove].
Bullhooks are a common training tool used on elephants, and also controversial. The device — which looks like a fireplace poker, with its sharp-hooked end — is basically designed to prod an elephant's skin, which a lot of people argue is simply cruel. By 2014, over 40 municipalities in the United States and 30 countries around the globe had expressed enough concern over the use of bullhooks that regulatory measures were passed — including a full-on ban in Oakland and Los Angeles. This change in regulation resulted in one more fact about elephants in the circus you might not realize.