Now that Ringling Bros. have been caught in the act beating their animals, the Coney Island sideshows are on the PETA agenda. The NY Post reports that the organization is concerned about a capybara, the world's largest rodent, being "victim of a daily assault of noise, cramped conditions and inhumane treatment."
A little background: these things can get to be over 100 lbs. (think of the ROUS's in the Fire Swamp), and are typically found along river banks in South America living "highly social" lives and roaming many miles a day.
This particular sideshow creature is owned by Lee Kolozsy (aka Professor Laszlo), who claims the loud looping noises in their cages don't bother them, because they can "close up their ears and nostrils for hours at a time." Alright "professor," but Robert Voss, curator of mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, disagrees; he told the paper that while it's hard to tell if the animal minds the noise, "It's not plausible that the capybara hears nothing of the ambient noise in its environment." He also added that the animal in question was "not-a-very-happy-looking capybara. It doesn't take an expert in animal behavior to see that a social, semi-aquatic animal kept by itself in a cramped metal cage with blaring rock music in the background is going to get stressed out under such conditions."
Anita Kelso Edson of the ASPCA claimed that their "agents did not observe any cruelty and the case was closed." However, dozens of complaints have come in from visitors, including this one (who has a photo); he says, "It is hunkered down in its miserable little water bowl. The floor is metal with nothing soft for it to lie on and no obvious food to eat. The poor thing should at least have some hay to lie down in. And, at this size, it should still be getting milk."