Zippos Circus

Animal Welfare


“I have now inspected the circus a number of times over the past few years,  as have the City of London Veterinary Officers and we have not raised any welfare concerns in regards to these animals.”

Sharon Edwards Animal Health Inspector

Port Health & Public Protection Animal Health & Welfare Services

Animal Health Veterinary Surgeon Report - April 2018

Zippos Circus
Blackheath SE3 0UA
London Borough of Lewisham

Officer present: Monica David - City of London,
Animal Health Veterinary Surgeon (Report)

This inspection was made by appointment with David Hibling creative director of Zippos.

On site we met with Mr Hibling, Mr Barrett, Mr Tamik Khadiko and his wife Helena who also is involved with the care of the horses.

The circus has an act with horses and one with Budgies, no other animals.

The horses come from mainland Europe the owner is Mr Khadiko is looking after them and taking care for their welfare and training.

The six horses perform during the show are kept in stables measuring 3 meters by 3 meters. The space allocated would allow them to move around and lay down without restriction, each stable had clean shaving of a suitable depth. Fresh water and hay were available in each stable. The horses looked in good condition and relaxed.

The stables are placed under a tent erected for this purpose, airflow can be regulated opening the sides; this time the horse were not out grazing in the temporary paddock, which is made from a double barrier, with inside electric fencing standoff and a second barrier of metal standoff panels .

As routine the horses will work in the morning for about 2 hours and then will have time off in the paddock before the afternoon and evening performances, if weather condition will permit.

All the horses have a valid passport with vaccination for equine influenza, the Coggin test carried out was negative. The CVEDs for their movement to the UK were also available for the inspection.

The stables were clean and well maintained, with no sharp edges or other maintenance problems that could constitute a hazard for the animals.

The tacks were stored in the horses’ stables. During the night the stable is shared by the horses with a German Shepard dog.

The horse box transport was examined. Transporter Authorisation number UK/REIGA/T2/00097684 for Zippos circus included also the contingency plan; Mrs Helena Khadikova has a certificate of competence for drivers and attendants issued by the Czech Republic and a Transporter Authorisation type A2.

The horses’ transport has been provided with side gates following the discussion with Mr Khadiko, he reported that the addition of the gates has been a positive improvement for the safety during loading and unloading.

Mr Hibling has a list of vets which can provide care for the animals in every location visited by the circus.

Mr Norman Barrett has been with the circus for many years and he has a well-known act with Budgerigars and he is also the Ring-master.

Mr Barrett keep his budgerigars in the adapted rear of a transit van, separation is given by a mesh door. The van is new and interior refurbished.

The accommodation for the birds was clean and of a good size, plenty of perches, drinkers and with ample food supply such to avoid potential territorial confrontation between birds. The birds are kept to a high standard and there was no concern with their welfare.

There were 17 birds in this accommodation and 2 of them are retired and will be re-homed as soon as a suitable place will come along. Both portion of the van are well maintained and clean. The van has a second part which is used for storage of feed supply and to provide the fresh airflow to the aviary.

The accommodation offers good protection and privacy for the birds and the birds are taken into Mr Barrett’s caravan at night

All the birds appeared to be fit and well-kept exhibiting normal behaviour.

There are spare cages for the isolation of sick birds if required and a carrier cage to take the birds into the ring at the time of the performance.

The Circus staff as usual has been helpful and provided all the information requested, they always open to discussion and when suggestion for extra improvement have been made acted upon it.


HOVE VISIT 22/8/14

As in previous years, everyone was more than helpful when I visited. The setup, conditions and facilities we saw were of the highest standard. The animals were in excellent condition, their living arrangements were clean, contained the correct bedding and food and water, the equine exercise regime was explained as was each horses history.

As there were dogs on site I obviously asked about their position in the circus, I was completely satisfied with the information given regarding their future.

It was disappointing that only a couple of Councillors accepted your invitation to see the set up for themselves, however, from our point of view there were no complaints.

Please thank the staff for their co-operation and in particular Norman who was wonderful both on this visit and the Monday evening when I came to see the show.

Hope the rest of the tour goes well, look forward to seeing you next year,

Kind regards and best wishes

Sue Watson

Senior Animal Welfare Officer

View STV-Animals 999 SSPCA inspection of Zippos® Circus on YouTube

A spokeswoman for the Scottish SPCA said:
“We have been out to inspect on several occasions recently and there has been no cause for concern.”
13 JUL 2016 in the Aberdeen Evening Express

To whom it may concern

Zippos Circus Queens Park Glasgow.

I am the Chief Superintendent of the Scottish SPCA and have completed 22 years service, I am based at Scottish SPCA Headquarters, Kingseat Road, Halbeath, Dunfermline KY11 8RY.

At 1pm on Tuesday 9th of June 2009 accompanied by Scottish SPCA Inspector William Linton I visited the above Circus at the Invitation of Mr. David Hibling.
We were met and invited onto the site where we were shown 4 Horses that were turned out in a 75-meter square enclosure, which was surrounded by a security fence to keep dogs away from the horses, and not to contain the horses, which are normally behind an electric fence. These horses were in excellent bodily condition and had access to both food and water. No shade was provided in the enclosure, however, it was explained to us that the horses are constantly monitored and if heat becomes an issue the horses are returned to their stable accommodation. We were then showed us the feed supply for the horses which is held in a separate articulated lorry. Ample good quality food and hay was available.

I then asked to see how the horses were transported between venues and shown the Horsebox lorry. This lorry is constructed to a high standard and each horse has a separate stall, each stall can be inspected from the outside individually. The lorry is also fitted with a water tank to enable the horses to drink in-between venues.
The temporary horse stables are attached to either side of a very large trailer, they are of sufficient size and robustly constructed. The stables are sheltered above with a white painted roof (to reflect heat) and covered at the side. We were asked if we could provide details of local veterinary surgeons that specialise in horses. The names and contact numbers of two veterinary surgeons were given by Inspector Linton. We were told that there was no problem with the horses or ponies, but it was the Circus policy to always obtain contact details of local veterinary surgeons in case of emergency. The Circus travels with a Rice trailer in case a horse has to be transported to a veterinary practice.

We were then shown three Falabella ponies in a separate stable area, again these ponies were in excellent condition and had access to food and water.
We were then introduced us to Mr. Norman Barrett who is the ringmaster for the Circus and who has a budgerigar act. Mr. Barrett showed us 15 budgerigars, which are housed in the rear of a large van. The rear of the van has been converted into an aviary, which affords the birds plenty of space to fly in. Mr. Barrett, Inspector Linton and I entered the aviary, which was very clean with ample food and clean water available. Mr. Barrett explained his care of the budgerigars all of which were very tame and obviously very used to being well handled. All birds were in excellent condition. The only time the budgerigars are caged is to transport then to and from the circus ring. The birds are kept in Mr. Barrett's trailer overnight.

The Circus was content for Inspector Linton and I to enter any part of the Circus site and both have offered an open invitation for Scottish SPCA Inspectors to visit the Circus at any time, either in Glasgow or at any other Scottish venue.
I have no concern over the welfare or care of any of the horses, ponies or budgerigars on site and I am happy with the transport available for the animals.

Yours sincerely

Michael Flynn MBE, Chief Superintendent

A Day in the life of Zippos Circus Horses


In 2018 the Zippo stables host six magnificent “Jigit” horses of the Khadikov Cossack riding troupe.

The horses are owned and cared for by a family, Tamerlan Khadikov, his wife Helena Khadikova, his mother Raissa who with two employed riders all look after and care for the horses – in addition, other members of the Circus staff play a role in the welfare of the horses especially during performances and when the circus moves.

Every day the first job in the stables is an early morning drink and breakfast of fresh hay. Whilst the horses eat the ritual of mucking out begins- the daily early morning cleaning familiar to any one who cares for horses whether in racing stables or a riding school. The circus has long since abandoned hiring skips for waste removal and travels its own ensuring prompt and hygienic removal of soiled bedding.

With the stables clean and the horses refreshed only then can the human carers enjoy their own breakfast. Once the morning meal has been digested the horses are taken to a deserted and quiet Big Top devoid of all the usual colour and razzmatazz of the performance, for rehearsal. This is an important time for both riders and horses as it is during the next couple of hours that their working relationship is cemented. The only sounds are words of encouragement, the horses' hooves pounding in sawdust and a radio playing so that the animals are familiar and relaxed with the sound of music. After some gentle exercise the horses will practice and learn new routines that will be presented in the circus next season. It is slow, patient work with any new development often unnoticed by an untrained eye but to Tamerlan and his team each rehearsal brings rewards as the new manoeuvre takes shape and both the animals and riders understand what is being asked of them. For the horses themselves the morning exercise stimulates them both physically and mentally.


Practice over the horses can relax and return to the stables or are turned out into paddocks for the rest of the morning. In the paddocks they can graze, run, associate as a herd and simply 'be horses'. The horses are never left unattended, Tamerlan or one of the riders, are never far away and are always on hand to ensure the horses always have food or water if and when required. In addition to a constant supply of hay on demand (horses are browsing animals) the animals also receive a full daily ration of 'hard feed' - a special quality mix of concentrated horse food together with any vitamins or minerals they may require.

In the afternoon with hay nets filled the troupe is back in the stables. Each horse has an individual loose box rather than being tethered in stalls. The boxes were designed by Zippos Circus in consultation with animal welfare groups, and allow the horse freedom of movement, whilst each animal can view and communicate with his companions.
The afternoon is spent grooming the horses ready for the circus performance. However, no amount of brushing will result in a glossy and shining coat if the individual animal is not on form within himself and content with his surroundings. The horses enjoy good health but the circus does have a veterinary consultant who will attend the horses at the circus if required, whom it has employed for many years and knows the animals well. The circus horses are regularly inspected by independent experts, for example Council Animal Welfare Officers will make routine (often un-announced) inspections of the circus and as the circus appears in parks operated by many different Local Authorities throughout the circus season the animals may be inspected many times, far more than the average horse whether kept as a working animal or as a private pet. The condition of the Zippo circus horses has consistently won praise and widely acknowledged; it even earned them a place in the special equestrian spectacle that was staged to honour the Queen during her Jubilee.


Just as the morning practice confirms the relationship with their human carers, the afternoon grooming is an important way of the horses building trust and affection with their riding partners. Both exercises are ways of teaching human and animal about each other - likes, dislikes, moods, temperament and little individual character traits. A strong bond between horse and rider is essential for the success of a Cossack riding display.

The circus normally gives two performances a day, in the afternoon and evening. The horses' acts last about fifteen minutes and the routines showing off the natural aptitudes of the animals remain a firm favourite with the thousands of families who visit Zippos each year. After the horses have worked, content they will settle down for the night. Hay nets are filled once again and fresh, clean straw will be laid down in the boxes as soft bedding for the animals' comfort. Once the animals are bedded down, the horse carers can snatch a couple of hours relaxation for themselves, but before they sleep a final check on the animals is made before retiring to their own mobile homes parked next to stables - ever close to the animals that partner their everyday life.


P.S. Once a week the circus 'pulls-down' and moves to a new venue. Although much of the horses' daily routine remains unaltered small gestures are made throughout the day to ensure a smooth journey to the next circus site. As things are used and no longer required they are packed away, for example after morning exercise the paddocks are taken down and stored. The horse transporter will have been checked for the journey and during the morning of the move the grooms will ensure that hay nets are placed inside ready for the horses so the animals can eat during the short distance between venues.

A day or so before the circus actually departs from a venue the next site has already been marked out - this is the process whereby the tent master of the circus marks out the position of the show on the new venue. The tent master also marks out where the horse stables will be situated on site. During marking out a spare set of stakes (the metal pins that secure the tents to the ground) are hammered into place - this is a time saving exercise to ensure a speedy erection of the tents when the circus arrives on the new site. The exercise pen taken down is erected on the new site ahead of arrival to ensure the horses do not have to wait to have access to fresh grazing. The circus has always positioned the horse acts early or midway during the actual circus performance thus whilst the horses are working in the last performance (usually an early evening one) their stables are already being dismantled. The horses leave the Big Top and are prepared for the journey, loaded and the final few items of the stables packed away.

It is a familiar routine worked out for speed, comfort and efficiency to ensure that journey times for the horses are kept short. The horses transport and grooms leave the site before the final circus performance is over. The transport for the horses is modern and conforms to all regulations, close circuit television enables the driver to check on the horses during the journey and a water tank is fitted so the vehicle has a water supply. (The circus ensures there is a mains supply of fresh water at each venue and employs a member of staff whose first task upon arrival is to connect the water to the circus by way of hosepipes - with the stables being first to have access).

As soon as the convoy arrives at the next site the stables are immediately erected, the loose boxes positioned and the horses unloaded thus ensuring time spent in transport is kept to a minimum. As the rest of the circus begins to arrive at the new location the horse stables are already in place, the animals themselves fed and watered and bedded down for the night.

Zippos Circus and animal rights

Zippos Circus was represented on the Government working group on the new ANIMAL WELFARE BILL - helping to set new standards for circus animal welfare. Zippo's dedication to circus animal welfare and artistry was recognised in receiving awards for the Best Equestrian Act, in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 and in 2006, with our then trainer, Tom Roberts. His successor Yasmine Smart has won more awards for excellence than any other professional circus artiste including two silver clowns at the prestigious Monte Carlo Circus Festival and a special award for Equestrian Excellence at the Festival of the Horse in the City of Verona.

Q: I have heard animal rights people are against the use of animals in circuses, even horses. Who are Animal Rights?

A: Animal Rights believe none of us have the right to own animals or eat meat; "The most important thing you can do is go vegan." says a contemporary Animal Rights advocate, Professor Francione, (Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law & Philosophy at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, USA.)

For more see:

Further, Professor Francione argues that animal welfare regulation is theoretically and practically unsound, and he is against setting up welfare legislation for animals. For Animal Rights the issue is not how the animals in our care are treated, rather that we should not own pets or companion animals at all.

For more see:

Zippos Circus is not persuaded by such extreme arguments, but operates within UK and European law, with training, transportation and general animal husbandry, which is of the very highest standard. Zippos are strong advocates of excellence in Animal Welfare and have asked successive Governments to introduce legislation force the external regulation of Circus animals by independent vets and other animal experts. To date no such legislation has been offered, and Zippos is still waiting. Meanwhile Zippos has its own Code Of Conduct for the use of Domestic Animals in our circuses.