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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Bears Baited

ATLANTA () -- An Atlanta animal rights groups is accusing a Russian circus of mistreating its 10 ice hockey-playing bears.

The group claimed in a lawsuit that the circus surgically embeds skates in the bears' feet or sews their mouths shut. Animal Abuse Watch Inc. also claimed that the bears are beaten, burned and shocked to force them to perform.

Representatives of the Moscow Circus on Ice, scheduled to perform in the Atlanta suburb of Roswell next week, denied the accusations Wednesday.

"A bear has a big ego," said Yury Turkin, the show's producer. "If you hit a bear, it will remember and never listen to you again."

Circus spokeswoman Cheryl Averill said the skating bears wear shoes made by an orthopedic surgeon. She said their mouths are not sewn shut but that the animals wear muzzles during the show.

Virginia McCrosky, who filed suit in Fulton County Superior Court earlier this week, wants a judge to order that the bears be examined by a veterinarian. If signs of abuse are found, the organization wants the bears to be taken from the circus.