Unattended Elephant at Florida Beach Party Prompts Complaints to State, Federal Officials

Potentially Deadly Situation Flagrant Violation of Law, Says PETA

For Immediate Release:
May 22, 2014

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Pinellas County, Fla. – An elephant rented out for a birthday party was photographed and videotaped apparently unattended in Redington Beach in Pinellas County on Saturday. According to news reports, on May 17, the 58-year-old, 6,200-pound elephant named Judy startled several beachgoers as she waded in the gulf. So, PETA has sent a complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking for an immediate investigation of the elephant’s handler, Bones Craig, and whether he broke any federal laws protecting elephants and members of the public. PETA has also filed a complaint with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“Many captive elephants are accidents waiting to happen, and you never know which ones will attack, even if they’ve exhibited a docile personality for years,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “Allowing a 6,200-pound, fiercely strong animal to roam the beach unsupervised could easily have ended in tragedy.”

In the USDA complaint, PETA points out that, according to the Animal Welfare Act, elephants must be handled so that there is “sufficient distance and/or barriers between the animal and the general viewing public so as to assure the safety of animals and the public.” PETA also reminds the agency that during “public exhibition, dangerous animals such as … elephants must be under the direct control and supervision of a knowledgeable … animal handler.”

Elephants, such as Judy, are generally trained with the use of bullhooks—weapons with a sharp, metal hook on one end—and electric prods. The animals don’t perform tricks and give rides because they want to—they do it because they want to avoid severe beatings. Experts recognize that these abusive practices can result in aggression. An attack by an elephant in Levy County last fall left a woman hospitalized with near fatal injuries and unable to speak.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

 

PETA’s letter to the USDA follows.

 

May 20, 2014

 

Elizabeth Goldentyer, D.V.M.
Regional Director
USDA/APHIS/AC Eastern Region
920 Main Campus Dr., Ste. 200
Raleigh, NC 27606-5210

 

Dear Dr. Goldentyer:

As you may have heard, Florida media outlets have been reporting a story about an Asian elephant, purportedly hired for a birthday party in Redington Beach, who has been photographed and video-taped apparently unattended on a public beach in Pinellas County, Fla. on May 17, 2014. According to news reports, the elephant is 58-year-old Judy and the exhibitor is Bones Craig, license no. 58-C-0278. Photographs and video embedded with news reports depict the elephant apparently unattended on a public beach, in close proximity to numerous adults and children, which would have placed the party attendees and beach-side bystanders at risk and appears to have implicated the following Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations:

  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131 (c)(1): “During public exhibition, any animal must be handled so there is minimal risk of harm to the animal and to the public, with sufficient distance and/or barriers between the animal and the general viewing public so as to assure the safety of animals and the public”;
  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131 (d)(2): “A responsible, knowledgeable, and readily identifiable employee or attendant must be present at all times during periods of public contact”;
  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.131 (d)(3): “During public exhibition, dangerous animals such as lions, tigers, wolves, bears, or elephants must be under the direct control and supervision of a knowledgeable and experienced animal handler”; and
  • 9 C.F.R. § 2.127 (d), which only exempts traveling licensees from the perimeter fencing requirement if “appropriate alternative security measures are employed.”

On behalf of PETA, we respectfully request that the USDA follow up on this incident, investigate the licensee for associated AWA violations, and take the necessary enforcement action against him. Thank you for following up and for letting us know what complaint number is assigned to this correspondence.

Very truly yours,

Carney Anne Nasser
Counsel
Captive Animal Law Enforcement
PETA Foundation

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.

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