Elephant named Viola escapes circus, takes walk through Montana town

A circus elephant named Viola gave the performance of her life on Tuesday – a grand disappearing act. 

The mammoth animal was scheduled to appear on stage at Jordan World Circus in Butte, Montana, but before her act, Viola escaped and wandered through the city, a city official confirmed to CBS News. The circus had two shows scheduled, one at 4:00 p.m. and one at 7:00 p.m. local time.

“One of the circus elephants managed to escape from its trainer and wandered onto Harrison Ave, a bustling street in town,” J.P. Gallagher, the county’s chief executive, said to CBS News. 

Video shared on social media showed the elephant walking down the middle of the road through traffic in the southwest Montana city. She walked in front of the town’s casino and into a storage facility as people ran alongside her, video showed. 

Viola caused some damage to a storage area at the Civic Center but “no one was injured,” Gallagher said, adding, “Although there was minor damage to the facility, we are grateful that everyone remained unharmed,” he said. 

Viola’s trainers were eventually able to subdue and restrain her. 

Animal advocacy groups PETA and PAWS in separate statements said that Viola had escaped from the circus before. PETA alleged that Carson & Barnes, the circus that supplied the elephants to the Jordan World Circus, has a history of forcing elephants to perform grueling exercises and has been cited for more than 100 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

CBS News reached out to both circuses for comment. 

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