PETA says the circus animals should be able to relax, roam free and recover from years of preforming at credible sanctuaries

After 146 years of operation, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus is closing, performing its final show on May 21, 2017.

Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, announced the news on Jan. 14.

“This was a difficult business decision to make, but by ending the circus tours, we will be able to concentrate on the other lines of business within the Feld Entertainment portfolio,” said Juliette Feld, Feld Entertainment’s Chief Operating Officer, in a statement. “Now that we have made this decision, as a company, and as a family, we will strive to support our circus performers and crew in making the transition to new opportunities.”

A part of the transition that is still unclear, however, is what will happen to the animals under Ringling Bros. care after the final show. According to ABC News, the circus has assured it will find appropriate homes for all of the animals, but has not elaborated on what or where those homes will be.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has protested Ringling Bros. shows for years, has a strong suggestion on where the elephants, big cats, camels and other circus animals should go once they retire.

“PETA wants these animals to be placed in reputable sanctuaries where their specific species needs will be met,” Rachel Mathews, an attorney and the Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement for PETA told PEOPLE.

There is a precedent for this type of transition. Animals that previously retired from circuses have moved to accredited sanctuaries like PAWS in California and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Here, Mathews says, animals have other members of their species to socialize with, large open spaces to roam and plenty of activities and toys to increase enrichment. And, most importantly, they have a safe place to rehabilitate from the physical and psychological toll performance work has taken on them

“These sanctuaries exist to provide a place for retirement for the animals used in animal exploitation,” Mathews added.

This set up would be far different from the lives Ringling Bros. circus animals have now. According to the PETA attorney, the animals are kept in cramped cages or in chains, live their lives in parking lots and arena basements and endure the constant strain of performing and training on command.

PETA looks forward to, and will continue to fight for, the end of animal exploitation and welcomes the new era of animal-free circus entertainment, like Cirque du Soleil, which focuses on talented human entertainers, who are able, willing and excited to perform for their peers.