The Shrine Circus is taking place in Lincoln this weekend. And while it's a fun experience for most, some people worry about how the animals are treated.
The topic is inevitably brought up every year, that's why 10/11 investigated just how theses animals are treated and the decision making process of how a circus company is chosen.
To most the circus is about clowns high flying stunts and animals.
Sesostris Shrine Potentate Mike Buchardt says, "It's good clean wholesome fun."
That's why the Sesostrious Shriners make sure animals aren't being mistreated.
Buchardt tells 10/11, "If we would ever see the gentleman who puts on the circus do something hateful to those animals, he would not be back in Lincoln, Nebraska."
The USDA regulates all circus's. Nearly all animals which perform in the James Christy Cole Circus is licensed by the federal agency.
James Plunkett produces the James Christy Cole Circus. He says, "The USDA, Fish and Game every state we go into we're inundated with paperwork, which is good because it really does keep the people who are doing the right thing there."
Even though the circus is regulated, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA believe animals are still mistreated.
Carney Anne Chester with PETA tells 10/11 in a phone interview, "The simple fact is there's no way to use these animals for entertainment and treat them humanely. They're being subjected to the constant threat of physical punishment in order to perform, they're subjected to long grueling travel in inhumane close cramped quarters."
But Plunkett disagrees, "That's just ridiculous, because any animal that's afraid is cowed, they'll try to run away from you or act that way. Animals love to eat and we try to find their favorite treat. So you're rewarding them, not instilling fear? Of course, you have to reward them."
Buchardt says they wouldn't continue to use the James Christy Cole Circus if the producer and the show wasn't reputable.
He adds that he's never seen an incident of animal cruelty and he will personally do random checks on the animals to see if they're fed, have water and are living in clean conditions.
"I trust them, you know. In this day and age how many people can we say we trust? Trust is something that we've lost in America and I'm hopeful through this circus, showing the people that we trust what's going on out here, it will bring them into the circus and show them what a clean wholesome circus is."
Plunkett says all his acts are independently contracted meaning the animal owners hold the licenses, which is why the USDA didn't have a license specifically under the name of James Christy Cole Circus from 2003 to 2011.
He explains, "Now you'll see we'll have a license for last year because we got a dog act, but there was no reason for me to have license, because I didn't have any animals."
He says the only animal which doesn't require a permit through the USDA is horses. Plunkett says there are just too many and it would be too hard to regulate.
Sesostris Shrine chooses the circus production company it wants to use. It is not one company for all Shrine circuses across the country.