SALT LAKE CITY — The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Foundation sent a letter to Mayor Ralph Becker on Friday, calling for an investigation of uniformed police officers who handed out publicity materials for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The letter, also sent to Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, included photographs of officers handing out fliers and pamphlets during the parade and elephant walk Wednesday.
"Such activities fly in the face of conflict-of-interest laws and policies and undermine public confidence in the city's commitment to independent, objective law enforcement," Delcianna Winders, counsel for PETA, wrote in the letter.
It was the second letter Becker's office has received from the animal-rights group in the past eight days. On Sept. 17, the office received a letter asking Becker to help prevent "at least four" elephants PETA officials said were "lame" from performing in Salt Lake City.
The letter stemmed from a controversy earlier this month in Sacramento, where PETA officials say an independent exotic-animal veterinarian inspected the elephants performing at Arco Arena and "found crippling lameness consistent with arthritis and other problems." A second veterinarian later declared three of the elephants physically fit to perform and said the fourth could perform in a limited role.
PETA asked that Salt Lake City officials "inspect and monitor the circus and enforce the laws by requiring adequate care for all animals," Winders states in second letter.
"At a time when they should have been investigating Ringling for cruelty to animals, the police were instead handing out promotional fliers for the circus," said PETA director Debbie Leahy. "The police are supposed to be enforcing the law, not helping animal abusers such as Ringling force ailing elephants to perform confusing and painful tricks."
Salt Lake City Police spokeswoman Lara Jones said every year the department provides security along the parade route for the safety of the spectators and the animals.
"The circus also gives (officers) materials to hand out. I don't see any problem with that," Jones said.
PETA called the officers' actions "entirely inappropriate," saying they were acting as "agents of the circus" by "brazenly promoting" the event.
"Promoting the very entity one is charged with policing suggests improper influence and a definite appearance of impropriety," Winders wrote.
Jones said officers were just doing their job providing security and safety at the event.
"One of the other things we're there for is to ensure the right of folks like PETA to protest something they may have an objection to," she said.