Piccadilly Circus begins a two-day run at the Lake County County Fairgrounds in Grayslake on Wednesday, but not without controversy trailing it.
An official warning was issued to Piccadilly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture late last year, which in part stated the circus' animals should be handled "as carefully as possible" in a manner that does not cause trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm or unnecessary discomfort, after a zebra died.
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Criticism from animal-rights activists also has been periodically leveled against the circus. However, Piccadilly Circus representatives dispute any claims the show animals are not treated well.
Piccadilly Circus has shows scheduled for 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Lake County Fairgrounds' exposition event center. People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a statement in advance of the Grayslake shows singling out Piccadilly Circus for criticism on the zebra death and other alleged problems.
"Children naturally love animals, so the last place that parents and grandparents should take them to is the circus," said PETA's Delcianna Winders.
Piccadilly Circus marketing director Cuin Griffin said the show has stringent guidelines regarding the care and well-being of animals. He said circus animals receive better care and live longer than those living in the wild.
"We need to point out that no animal-rights groups, including PETA, have any authority, control or rights over our animals or anybody else's," Griffin said in a statement. "In fact, they are, at best, fundraising for groups that have never, ever done anything for animal welfare."
USDA documents show an official warning for two violations of federal regulations were issued to Piccadilly Circus last Dec. 5. It says sometime from Oct. 4 to Nov. 27, underwire mesh was improperly exposed in a tiger enclosure, and a young zebra died when it got caught in another zebra's halter while playing.
Griffin disputed the USDA's accusation about how the zebra died.
"Like all equines, zebras are prone to colic," Griffin said. "Sometimes when this occurs, the animal can be saved. Sometimes, however, they cannot."