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6 Children, 1 Adult Injured After Camel Is Spooked At Shrine Circus

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Six children and one adult were injured when a camel got spooked at the Shrine Circus during a performance at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday afternoon.

The Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety says children and an adult were riding a tethered camel led by qualified handlers during intermission at the circus when the camel "got spooked" and started bucking.

According to one witness, a child threw a shovel, used to clean up after the animals, at the camel's feet.

"They were giving camel rides and camels were walking around calmly. And then a kid threw a shovel at the camel's feet, which startled the camel and it started to buck," Ruthie Kester, of Latrobe, said.

"They went crazy and they just started running everywhere and [Marlo's daughter] was holding onto me and she was super scared and she was crying," Marlo Shipeck said.

Officials say the handlers regained control of the camel within 11 seconds.

In a Facebook video, an announcer can be heard saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, remain calm please. Please remain calm. No unnecessary movement. Slowly leave the arena floor if you feel safer. We are looking for a medic, an EMT."

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Emergency medical services were on hand for the event and they provided medical treatment to the children and adult who were injured.

One child was taken to UPMC Mercy with a fractured arm and five other children were transported to Children's Hospital of UPMC with minor injuries. One adult was also transported to a local hospital with minor injuries.

After the incident, the circus continued with no further problems. No animals, including the camel, were injured during the incident and all were checked out and cleared by a veterinarian.

Amy Wadas' Report:

Pittsburgh Police and the Shrine Circus are reviewing the incident.

This was the 69th time the Shrine Circus has stopped in Pittsburgh.

Animal rights activists have objected to bringing the circus to town, saying they believe the animals are abused.

Humane Action Pittsburgh, along with PETA, convinced six Pittsburgh city council to ban certain control instruments used with the animals.

The organization released a statement in response to Sunday's incident.

"We are saddened to hear of the incident that took place today at PPG Paints Arena with the Shrine Circus, but not at all surprised. Animal circuses, especially those whom the Syria Shrine Circus subcontracts their animals from, have a long history of animal abuse and public safety violations," Humane Action Pittsburgh said in part.

Rachel Mathews, PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, also issued the following response:

"This dangerous incident is exactly what Pittsburgh's ban on using weapons to threaten wild and exotic animals should be preventing. Had the Shriners abided by the law and left animals out of their show, instead of taking the city to court, this camel and these children would have been spared this terror and possible injury. PETA is calling on the Syria Shriners to let this be the straw that ends the camel acts and urging the public never to buy a ticket to any circus that uses animals."

Paul Leavy, a Shrine Circus organizer since 1993, has said in the past that the Shriners do not abuse animals.

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