Notorious Elephant Exhibitor Settles With USDA Over 33 Violations
We have some news to share about a case that we’ve mentioned recently: Disreputable animal exhibitor Hugo Liebel, facing a hearing next week in Florida, has instead settled with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding 33 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—several of which sprang from charges that followed PETA complaints to the agency.
Nosey Deserves More
The USDA’s consent decision orders Liebel to stop violating the AWA and to pay a civil penalty of $7,500. While it’s encouraging to see Liebel called to account for causing so much suffering, the fine is vastly inadequate in light of the severity of his abuse and negligence. (Liebel faced a maximum penalty of $330,000 as well as possible license revocation.)
Animals Need Effective Enforcement
PETA has been filing complaints against Liebel for nearly a decade—more than a dozen of them since 2009 alone—about Nosey and the other animals traveling with Liebel. Yet despite multiple citations, he has habitually abused these animals. So PETA is calling on the USDA’s inspector general (IG), Phyllis K. Fong, to investigate the settlement.
Over the past two decades, the IG’s office has issued four audit reports finding that USDA penalties were so low that they provided no deterrent effect and that AWA licensees view them as merely one of the costs of doing business. Despite assurances that the agency would address this issue following the last audit, Liebel’s settlement makes it clear that the problem persists.
What You Can Do
Please join PETA in urging the IG to investigate the USDA settlement with Liebel and require penalties strong enough to curb animal abuse by exhibitors. Send polite e-mails to [email protected].