Russian Bear that Performed in Olympics Now Caged on Rusty Bus

Russia's animal rights activists call for higher standards

By Greg Wilson
|  Tuesday, Aug 2, 2011  |  Updated 4:42 AM PDT
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Russian Bear that Performed in Olympics Now Caged on Rusty Bus

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Several dozen retired circus animals are kept in horrendous conditions in old buses and minivans that belong to St. Petersburg's Big Circus.

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Three decades ago, Katya the bear won international hearts performing at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, but now she sits caged and miserable in a rusted old bus.

The now-36-year-old bear delighted spectators by riding a motorcycle around a ring in the games, at the peak of the Cold War. She went on to appear in two movies and tour the nation with a circus. But now, according to The Associated Press, she spends all her hours in the small cage, gnawing at the rusty bars with broken and yellowed teeth. She's one of several animals from the Big St. Petersburg State Circus on Fontanka now put out to pasture on the permaently parked bus.

"They can't move normally and start going crazy," Zoya Afanasyeva of the Vita animal rights group told the AP as she stood by Katya's sweltering bus on a hot summer day.

Katya shares her small cage with a boar named Pasha. Nearby, atrophied birds live next to mute cats that stare straight ahead with pus-covered eyes, according to the AP.

Circus director Viktor Savrasov said the animals are cared for and Katya's trainer, Natalya Arkhipova could have had the bear put to sleep.

"Whatever happened, she did not leave her," he said.

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