Circus offers refund for canceled Bluffton shows

A circus featuring tigers and elephants said bad weather -- not protesters -- prompted it to cancel its Bluffton shows originally set for Monday and today.

The Cole Bros. Circus called off all of its shows at Buckwalter Place because of safety concerns after the weekend's heavy rains, according to the circus' marketing director.

Those who purchased advance tickets will receive a refund, Tom Renesto said. Numbers of tickets sold and how many ticket-holders had requested a refund were not immediately available Monday afternoon, Renesto said. Ticket holders will receive a refund automatically; there is no need to call for the reimbursement.

The area received 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches of rain from 7 a.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.

Standing water on the circus site made the owner doubtful the big top could be safely staked down, Renesto said.

"We think safety first and won't take chances of putting anyone at risk of getting hurt," he said. "Any shows we put on, whether in South Carolina, Kansas or California, if there is a safety issue due to weather of any kind, we'll cancel the show."

He said the cancellation had nothing to do with plans by two local women to picket the performances over complaints of animal mistreatment.

Shanti Bringas and Taylor Canterbury said last week they planned to organize a small, peaceful protest after researching the complaints online.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed complaints about Cole Bros. with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alleging it mistreats its exotic animals. The circus denies those allegations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture cited Cole Bros. with violations of the Animal Welfare Act in July 2011. The charges were settled after Cole Bros. paid a $15,000 fine in October 2012 but did not admit guilt, according to USDA records.

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