FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The stigma of animal cruelty in the circus world has been around for years, and is still apparent today.
The arrival of the Garden Brothers Circus to Fairbanks last weekend brought both happy attendees and protesters.
"It's abominable, it's abysmal, for what they do to these animals," said protester Mary Mika.
On the outside it may seem like a harmless show, but there are people who believe a dark tone sets in after the curtain falls.
This is her first protest, and organizer Kelly Musgraves says there's not always a happy ending to these shows.
"Definitely we need to show our kids that animals aren't objects to be exploited or used for profit or money," Musgraves said. "There's plenty of other things to do with your children like go hiking, going to the movies. If you want to spend time with animals, volunteer at your local shelter. There's so many different things you can do without harming other people. Giving money to these organizations that exploit and torture animals. Next time and event like this happens, just think twice and do research on the event that's going on and really consider, hey are the animals being treated well? Should the animals even be, being used as entertainment objects and just kind of think twice and kind of educate your kids on that, animals are living beings and we shouldn't treat them this way."
According to a published study by the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, Garden Bros. Circus has been involved in five incidents of animal cruelty.
The report also states that the group operated under eight different names during the past 30 years.
There have also been criminal charges, law suits and a variety of customer complaints.
National media outlets have documented the circus' struggle with the allegations.
Mika asks that residents think about the animals involved before considering attending a show like this.
"The thing is about animals, is that they can't speak any language," Mika said. "No one understands. They can't tell you. That's why we're here. Look at it from the animal's perspective and what they would say if they could tell you. And it's wrong, it's unethical, it's just absolutely immoral to treat animals this way."
Garden Bros Circus has not responded to a request for an interview about the protesters' claims.
But many performance attendees say they just want to have a good time with family.
"I had an awesome time at the circus this year," said attendee Ella Graham. "And also it was my mom's first time so it was really exciting for both of us.
Yeah I really liked it."