Circus sideshow

A reader, who wished to remain anonymous, recently contacted the News & Review worried about the Chico Police Officers Association’s only fund-raiser, Circus Gatti.

The reader supports CPOA and had planned on taking his daughter to see the show, but looked up Circus Gatti on the Internet and found several references critical of its animal-rights record. “I really don’t want to risk my family’s safety or have them see animals mistreated,” he said.

Terry Moore, president of the CPOA, said he’s heard of the animal-rights community’s take, and in past years—particularly after the department’s animal-control officers expressed concern—looked into the allegations. “I’ve looked up many of the different articles,” Moore said. “There certainly were some allegations there.” But there were no felony convictions, which he found reassuring.

According to records from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Gatti Productions, Inc., was last inspected on March 29, 2002. The only problem the company was ordered to correct was its lack of an updated itinerary.

Moore said CPOA has been bringing Circus Gatti to town for almost 15 years, raising $150,000 for charity during that time, and, “We have not had even one single bad experience here at all.”

“That would be the last thing we’d want to do is bring a group here that is abusing animals,” he said, adding that because of the police’s duty to respond to reports of animal mistreatment in the city, it would be especially “hypocritical” to bring a bad circus to Chico.

PETA, however, believes that all circuses are bad.

“We’re opposed to any circus that uses animal acts,” Debbie Leahy, director of the Captive Exotic Animal Department of PETA, said in a telephone interview from Virginia. She said that behind the scenes animals are confined in close quarters, shackled and forcefully trained until they “perform out of fear.” The five minutes they’re in the ring “doesn’t really tell you anything,” Leahy said.

The Palm Springs Police Officers Association decided not to proceed with a fund-raiser using Circus Gatti. PSPOA President Greg Jackson said that after eight to 10 years with Gatti, the association was “dissatisfied” with what he called the circus’ high-pressure, misleading telemarketing approach. The animal-rights concerns were the last straw. “That’s a very sensitive issue,” Jackson said, adding that other police associations also broke it off with Gatti in the early 1990s. “I’m surprised he’s still in business.”

Moore said he expects the circus, which will be held at the Silver Dollar Fair Grounds on Sept. 30, will raise about $10,000. Most of that will go toward community organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, anti-child abuse efforts and The Esplanade House transitional shelter. “If it has to do with kids, we’ve donated to it,” he said.

Officials from the Hemet- and Tustin-based Circus Gatti did not return calls for comment by press time.

Hospice mix-up

In this column last week, I mentioned a hospice-funding thrift shop opening in Paradise. My attempt to refer to the beneficiary of the shop’s proceeds generically as “Paradise Hospice” proved to be quite misleading. It seems there are two hospices in Paradise serving the terminally ill, which prompted supervisors of the other one to urge us to clarify.

The new Hospice Shoppe at 7126 The Skyway benefits the ValleyRidge Foundation, Inc., which is affiliated with ValleyRidge Home Care and Hospice. Paradise Hospice, which is a separate entity owned by Feather River Hospital (Adventist Health), operates its own Paradise Hospice Thrift Shop at 6868 The Skyway, by the Holiday Market.