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Bear Show At Salt Lake County Fair Draws Animal Abuse Complaint

Nicole Nixon

An animal rights group is asking federal authorities to investigate a bear circus performing at the Salt Lake County Fair this weekend. The Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) submitted a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Thursday.

UARC Director Jeremy Beckham says the traveling bear circus, known as The Great Bear Show, has been cited before for mishandling the animals and failing to provide adequate veterinary care.

“This circus [is] being cited year after year and the problem is still persisting,” Beckham says. “We’re asking that the USDA step up their penalties here, levy some fines and demand that this circus take these bears off the road. This is obviously inhumane.”

Beckham says on the opening night of the Salt Lake County Fair he went to see the bears perform and saw that they had heavy chains around their necks and were missing patches of fur.

Bob Steele runs The Great Bear Show. When he’s not traveling the country with his North American Black Bears, he says they live a good life on his ranch in Texas.

“They’re my kids,” Steele says of the bears. “ I’ve been doing it for four decades, I’ve been around them for almost six decades. I certainly know a little bit about what I’m doing or I wouldn’t still be in the business.”

He says most of his bears are orphans and rescues he takes in, cares for, and trains. Steele and his bears will be at the Salt Lake County Fair through Saturday at the County Equestrian Park in South Jordan.

Jeremy Beckham has received confirmation from the USDA that his complaint was received.  USDA officials will likely investigate The Great Bear Show in the coming months.

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