5 min read

Young Tiger Killed After Escaping From Ringling Bros. Truck

She was a former circus tiger — and just 6 years old.

Suzy, a 6-year-old Bengal tiger who spent her life performing circus tricks, was shot and killed by police on Wednesday after she was found wandering loose along a highway in Atlanta, Georgia.

Upon examination of her body, a microchip revealed that she was associated with Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which performed its last show ever in May.

Even though the circus shut down forever, Suzy wasn't on her way to retirement, but was being trucked from Florida to Tennessee — back to her owner, animal handler and former Ringling Bros. trainer Alexander Lacey. The truck was also carrying 13 other big cats. 

"We stopped in Georgia to feed and water the cats and for a quick rest break for the driver, and that's where we believe the animal escaped and was later confronted by law enforcement," Stephen Payne, spokesman for Feld Entertainment, said. "They've been raised around people their entire lives, so they're comfortable around people."

Suzy ran along I-75 and toward the Meadowbrook neighborhood. According to Henry County Police, Suzy went in to someone's backyard and pounced toward a pet dachshund, who was not injured. 

Still, concerned for public safety, officers decided to shoot and kill Suzy. "With the tiger in close proximity to a school bus route in a densely populated area, officers made the decision to put the animal down with gunfire fearing that occupants of the home could be in danger as well as others in the area," the police department wrote.

Suzy's death comes after some controversy about what will happen to the Ringling Bros. tigers now that the circus is closed. Many animal advocates hoped to see the big cats retire to a sanctuary.

“After spending years being carted around in cramped transport cages for 50 weeks of the year, it's time for Ringling and trainer Alexander Lacey to let these tigers live out their lives at a reputable sanctuary where they can experience the space, habitats and peace they need and deserve," Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), said in May, when tentative plans to ship Ringling tigers to a circus in Germany came to light.

Barren enclosures where Ringling tigers were typically kept | Jay Pratt

“This incident sadly illustrates just some of the immense risks and suffering caused by keeping exotic wild animals in captivity for entertainment," Elizabeth Hogan, U.S. wildlife campaign manager for World Animal Protection, told The Dodo in a statement. "The use of wild animals for entertainment causes immense animal suffering at every stage."

That kind of life is over now for the 6-year-old tiger. Rest in peace, Suzy. 

Ringling tigers being trained
Training a tiger to perform circus tricks essentially involves fear and coercion | Jay Pratt
Some big cats have been lucky enough to be saved from abuse and are finally experiencing life at a sanctuary. You can make a donation in memory of Suzy to Big Cat Rescue.