Animal rights group files federal complaint against bear show featured at Salt Lake County Fair

Posted at 6:19 PM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 20:19:28-04

SOUTH JORDAN – The Utah Animal Rights Coalition claims bears featured at the Salt Lake County Fair are being abused and forced to perform for entertainment.

The group filed a federal complaint against the operators of “The Great Bears Show.”

FOX 13 viewers caught a glimpse of the performance when Big Budah paid them a visit at the Salt Lake County Fair on Tuesday. Bob Steele is their handler and has taken their act on the road for nearly 40 years.

“The people really love it," Steele said. "We come out and educate the people a couple months of the year at different fairs and sports shares, but most of the time they're at home running on their acreage just being bears."

Jeremy Beckham is with the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, and he’s not impressed.

“Really it should be called the Sad Bear Show,” Beckham said. “These bears have these heavy chains tied around their necks, they're being dragged out of their depressing cage, being forced to perform confusing and unnatural tricks like sitting in chairs, standing on barrels.”

Beckham also takes issue with the booth where people can take a photo with a bear.

“This flimsy, two-foot piece of plexiglass is not a meaningful protection against a 600-pound animal like a bear," he said. "It's an accident waiting to happen.”

He also worries about the bears missing patches of hair. He believes it's caused by an underlying medical condition compounded by heavy iron chains placed around the bear's necks, but Steele says there’s no mistreatment.

“That is both federal and state requirement," Steele said. "It's just for restraint, and that's only on them for about two minutes for the show."

Visit the Utah Animal Rights Coalition's website for more details, including a link to the full text of the federal complaint.