PETA activists do not mince words when it comes to their disdain for the circus. Now, the animal rights group has accused Ringling Bros. trainers of savagely beating a tiger during a recent trip to Atlanta.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the story, which cites a witness who claims to have seen trainers beating a tiger until it collapsed and lost control of its bowels. Meanwhile, the circus adamantly denies PETA’s allegations.

“I really believe this is just an activist tactic,” said Crystal Drake, regional public relations manager for Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus. “We are diligent about our animal care… There’s been no abuse with our tigers or any of our animals.”

The circus was in town from February 12 to 21, and PETA says the incident occurred on February 18 at Philips Arena. The animal rights groups said an anonymous witness watched as “trainers repeatedly and violently whipped the tiger until the animal collapsed on the floor and lost control of its bowels.”

“Ringling and other circuses that use animals routinely use bullhooks, electric shock prods and whips to force tigers and elephants to perform frightening and even dangerous tricks, which is why we implore the public never to patronize these cruel businesses,” said Debbie Leahy, PETA’s director.

In fact, PETA has a Web site focused on Ringling Bros. and its alleged history of beating animals.

In the most recent case from Atlanta, PETA is offering a $5,000 reward to possible other witnesses. The group hopes to force federal authorities to investigate the incident.

While the circus was in town, inspectors did check out the circus at least once – after a zebra named Lima escaped on February 18. Lima broke loose from a training and exercise area and ran through downtown Atlanta during rush hour before being caught. The U.S. Department of Agriculture subsequently dispatched inspectors to check things out.

“They looked at everything,” Drake said. “And we welcomed them.”