Seventeen-year-old Allison Kramer has a lot of passions - eating cheese, sleeping and watching episodes of "Breaking Bad" among them - but by far her greatest passion is animals.
Kramer has been vegetarian her whole life and currently has a myriad of pets, including three rescued dogs, more than a dozen cats and one hedgehog. Recently she has been taking her love of animals to the next level by protesting animal abuse at circuses.
Allison and her mother, Susan Kramer, have protested animal abuse at circuses four times over the past year, once at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and three times at Youngstown's Covelli Centre.
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Allison Kramer holds a sign outside the Covelli Centre.
"I think it's important that we speak up for animals because they don't have a voice," Allison Kramer said. "They're not here for our entertainment."
The Kramers got involved with animal protesting on their own but are now loosely affiliated with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals , or PETA, and a semi-constant group of protesters.
"The first time, we just showed up, and were happy to see other people protesting," Susan Kramer said.
After that, they became friends with other protesters on Facebook and coordinated their efforts.
Their most recent protest at the Covelli Centre had a small but dedicated turnout of like-minded people, who held signs for families entering the circus to read.
Some customers of the circus take the presence of the animal rights advocates well, while others do not.
"There are a lot of ignorant people who don't realize what we are standing for," Allison Kramer said. "A good majority of them ignore us, and there are plenty of remarks that are ridiculous or irrelevant to what we are doing."
There are some successes, however. Some passersby are willing to take the brochures, coloring books and pamphlets that the Kramers and their comrades pass out.
"Last year when we did this, a whole family left when they saw our signs," Allison said.
Allison and the others contend that the circus - Ringling Bros. and Barnum &?Bailey Circus in this case - abuses animals, and they offer proof on signs and in pamphlets.
Allison and her mother are especially passionate about the abuse of elephants.
"To me it's just so darn obvious that you don't take a big beautiful elephant out of its natural environment, haul it around on trailers and a train, and beat it with a bull hook to get it to do things that are completely unnatural," Susan Kramer said. "I wish it could become obvious to everybody."
"Animals feel just like people do," her daughter added. "Just because they can't communicate the way we do, people think they can use them as objects at their own disposal."
Although protesting is hard work, Allison and her mother's efforts have great potential.
"Some people act like they are embarrassed," Allison said. "And we've noticed that parents try to shield their children from us and don't let them talk to us. Kids should be allowed to learn the facts and make up their own minds about things."
With people like Allison Kramer speaking out, the animals may just find their voice.