Last Chain On Billie


Last Chain on Billie by Carol Bradley (St. Martin’s Press)

Kudos to Carol Bradley for excellent research and thorough examination of the plight of circus elephants.  Last Chain On Billie (St. Martin’s Press) chronicles the lives of numerous circus elephants with real, gut wrenching facts.  How can we ever see an elephant in the same light?  A must-read, especially for those of us who have lived in Hohenwald and remember the days the Hawthorne Girls arrived.  A behind-the-scenes peek at the determined effort that led to their release.  And equally as important, a glimpse into the personal lives of Elephant Sanctuary co-founders Carol Buckley and Scott Blais.  Courageous and determined to make a difference, the duo set into motion a true sanctuary, where (to date) 24 elephants have had the opportunity to explore peace and the bliss of being an elephant.

Becky Jane Newbold, Publisher, Validity Magazine

Meet author Carol Bradley

Carol Bradley, an award-winning former newspaper reporter and critically-acclaimed author of the new creative non-fiction book, Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top, is scheduled to greet the public at The Elephant Sanctuary’s Welcome Center, 27 E. Main Street in downtown Hohenwald, Tennessee, on Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 3 p.m.

Carol Bradley headshot

Carol Bradley, author of Last Chain on Billie, courtesy photo

Last Chain on Billie chronicles how an elephant named “Billie” overcame the psychological damage of her past and, while residing at The Elephant Sanctuary, learned to trust humans again. The book also explores the contemporary challenges facing zoos and circuses, as public scrutiny around conditions for captive elephants steadily increases. Carol is expected to read selections from the book and take questions, with a short reception to follow. The public is welcome to attend this free event.

For information on the Sanctuary, including directions to the Welcome Center, visit For information on the author of Last Chain on Billie, visit


Q. Does Billie really exist?

A. Yes, Billie was rescued in 2006 and is living out her life at The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee.  She’ll turn 52 this year.  Her story is true.


Q. How similar is Billie’s experience to that of other circus elephants?

A. It’s very similar.  Contrary to the image circuses put forth, elephants perform in the ring not because they want to, but because they are forced to.  For more than a century, trainers have used coercion to teach elephants tricks and prompt them to perform them on command. Most of their time outside the circus ring is spent in chains.


Billie and Freida on a hill at The Elephant Sanctuary.  Photo courtesy The Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee

Billie and Freida on a hill at The Elephant Sanctuary. Photo courtesy The Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee

Q. How do you come to write about Billie?

A. In 2004 I clipped a story from The Washington Post detailing how the U.S. Department of Agriculture was requiring an Illinois man, John Cuneo, to relinquish his 16 elephants.  It was the largest confiscation of circus elephants in American history.  Eight of them wound up at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.  After finishing my first book in 2010, I visited the sanctuary, hoping to write a book about one of the inhabitants. Sanctuary co-founder Scott Blais convinced me to focus on Billie.  Of all the elephants, Billie best represented the trauma captive elephants

Billie at The Elephant Sanctuary, photo courtesy The Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee

Billie at The Elephant Sanctuary, photo courtesy The Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee



Q. Isn’t there a law against abusing circus animals?

A. The federal Animal Welfare Act is supposed to protect animals, but it doesn’t prevent the use of bullhooks on elephants, and there are far too few inspectors to make sure circus animals are treated humanely.


Q. How many captive elephants are still out there?

A. By one estimate, 600 elephants remain in circuses and zoos in the United States.


Q. What message are you hoping to convey with this book?

A. Circuses need to phase out animal acts. We’ve learned too much about the intelligence and emotional lives of animals to tolerate this archaic practice.  Circus-goers would rise up in arms if they understood what wretched lives circus animals, especially elephants, live.  These majestic animals deserve the space and freedom to live out their lives.

Interview contributed by Mary Elizabeth Ikard, APR, Communications & Marketing Manager, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.


About Becky Jane Newbold

Becky Jane Newbold thrives on new experiences and is always on the lookout for new stories to tell. Whether she is riding her motorcycle, photographing wildlife attracted to her garden, creating original works of art or enjoying home-cooked meals with her family, Becky Jane’s passion is staying current with fresh, innovative ideas. Raised in the newspaper industry, she is committed to truth in media. See more at


Last Chain On Billie — 4 Comments

  1. I am one who remembers very well the day The Hawthorn Elephants arrived and the joy leading up to it. There are many of us, all over the world, whose hearts were beating faster. They came two by two over a four (?) day period. Then when they got there, waching them try to figure out how to be free. Billie came last and it was just overhwelming to her. Good write up.

    • As a news reporter, I was able to witness every single Hawthorne elephant exit the trailer. It was stunning to watch. Thanks so much to supporters all over the world who helped make it possible. And thanks to the excellent staff of The Elephant Sanctuary for their commitment. Carol Bradley’s book was hard to put down!