Written by Jeff Mackey
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.
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.)
More critically, it leaves Nosey the elephant and other animals—as well as the public—in danger from his well-documented recklessness and
disregard of even minimal welfare guidelines.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update 2: Thanks for your calls and e-mails in Nosey's behalf. We have learned that Nosey is no longer
appearing with UniverSoul Circus. PETA will, of course, continue to monitor her
situation, and we'll post updates here. Please learn more about ways to help animals used for entertainment.
Update: As UniverSoul
Circus prepares to force Nosey to perform next week in Tallahassee, Florida,
actor Cheryl Hines has written an urgent letter to the manager of the North Florida Fairgrounds
imploring him to cancel the ailing elephant's appearances. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has also added his
voice in a plea to stop UniverSoul Circus from allowing Nosey to perform. Local activists have
also planned to demonstrate at the fairgrounds in Nosey's behalf.
Originally posted on February 20th, 2013:
Can you help us help Nosey, an ailing elephant exhibited by Hugo Liebel? Recent photographs of her led an elephant expert to conclude that her health is worsening, and PETA is calling on local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to confiscate Nosey, who will soon be forced to perform with UniverSoul Circus.
The photos were taken during a recent Liebel Family Circus show in Davenport, Florida. (PETA had urged Davenport officials to cancel the show, but they failed to act to protect Nosey.) Upon review, a veterinarian with decades of experience treating and caring for elephants determined that Nosey's painful skin condition continues to deteriorate and that she is suffering as a result.
In addition to these welfare concerns, records just obtained by PETA reveal that Nosey tested positive on a StatPak test for tuberculosis (TB) antibodies in January 2012. A positive test can be an early indicator of TB infection, which is highly transmissible between elephants and humans. Indeed, direct contact with a TB-positive elephant is not necessary for transmission of the disease. This is particularly worrisome given Liebel's record of unlawful unsupervised and dangerous contact between Nosey and the public.
Liebel has been abusing and neglecting Nosey for years. PETA has been filing complaints against the circus with the USDA for nearly a decade—more than a dozen of them since 2009. In March, Liebel is set to face almost three dozen formal charges for violations of the Animal Welfare Act—most of them relating to Nosey, including repeatedly chaining her so tightly that she could barely move and repeatedly denying her veterinary care.
Upon learning through a public records request that UniverSoul Circus planned to use Nosey in its Florida shows, PETA implored UniverSoul CEO Cedric Walker to spare the suffering elephant but has received no response, so the group is stepping up its campaign to get Nosey the help that she so desperately requires.
Written by Michelle Kretzer
When the Liebel Family Circus
planned on doing a series of shows at National Guard armories in Arkansas, it
didn't plan on PETA. We wrote to Major General William D. Wofford of the
Arkansas National Guard and let him know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) recently formally charged the circus's owner, Hugo Liebel, with almost three dozen violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
National Guard wisely decided not to associate itself with cruelty to animals and canceled scheduled performances in four cities.
Liebel has a long history of animal abuse. His most recent USDA charges include
repeated failure to provide adequate veterinary care to Nosey, the poor old elephant
he uses in his shows, who has been suffering from a chronic skin condition and
unexplained rapid weight loss, among other ailments. The USDA complaint against
Liebel also includes multiple charges for illegally chaining Nosey by two legs
so tightly that she could neither lie down nor take more than a single step in
any direction. Liebel also faces charges for allowing a spider monkey to escape
and not recapturing him for nearly six weeks and for chaining a spider monkey
to a pony for more than an hour.
affidavit from a circus employee recounts Liebel's affinity for bullhooks and
electric prods and details one incident in which Nosey was staked by all four
legs and beaten with a bullhook by Liebel. Liebel also instructed other workers
to beat her with objects such as shovel handles and sledge hammers.
all circus performances using captive animals would become a history-book
horror story. But in the meantime, Congress is considering the Traveling Exotic Animal
which would require vast improvements for animals used in circuses. Please take
a moment to urge your representatives to pass this historic piece of
legislation. Then get everyone you know to do the same, for sake of elephants
Written by Jennifer OConnor
Over the years, the Liebel Family Circus has tried to evade scrutiny by operating under a variety of different names, but owner Hugo Liebel's deplorable treatment of animals continues to catch up with him. Having already been fined nearly $3,000 for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, Liebel has now been charged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with 33 new violations, including keeping an elephant named Nosey chained so tightly by two legs that she could barely move and allowing manure to accumulate in her feet, potentially exposing her to serious infections. Other violations charged include leaving a chained monkey on a pony's back unattended for an hour.
PETA has been filing complaints against the circus since a whistleblower contacted us in 2004 to let us know that he had been knocked off his feet by Nosey. Liebel has repeatedly failed to provide Nosey with adequate veterinary care for a chronic skin ailment and her overgrown footpads. (Foot ailments are the leading cause of death in captive elephants.) We've filed more than a dozen complaints since 2009 about Nosey and the other animals traveling with Liebel, including several that were filed just prior to the USDA inspections that resulted in some of the charges.
USDA charges and fines are always welcome, but they won't necessarily put circuses using animals out of business. It is up to the public to put an end to the abuse by refusing to buy tickets.
Written by PETA
Last year, Renningers Farmers & Flea Market in Mount Dora, Florida, banned elephant rides after PETA provided evidence of Liebel Family Circus' long list of USDA violations, its history of animal neglect and abuse, and the unavoidable risks posed by elephant rides. Now we are hoping that Daytona Beach, Florida, will follow suit, thanks to footage taken during Liebel's March visit to the city.
In 2005, Liebel Family Circus entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and was assessed a civil penalty of $2,885 for multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including failure to provide adequate space and veterinary care for animals, failure to have an experienced elephant handler, and failure to provide a safety barrier between the animals and the public. And it's easy to see why from this footage. Talk about a disturbing picture: An individual who was charged with controlling an elephant named Nosey holds a toddler by one hand and in the other holds a bullhook—a sharp, steel-tipped device that workers use to strike, stab, hook, prod, and intimidate elephants in order to make them obey. Not only that, but at one point Nosey was allowed to pick up a bucket while people were on her back. If she'd decided to throw the bucket, someone could have been seriously injured.
In light of this evidence of dangerous misconduct at Liebel's stop in Daytona Beach, PETA has sent the footage to the city's mayor along with a letter asking him to support legislation to prohibit elephant rides in the city.
In the wild, elephants travel in family groups, and female elephants stay with their mothers for their entire lives. Elephants who are trapped in circuses and forced to live in boxcars and endure years of abuse often become depressed and neurotic. Nosey, Liebel's only elephant, has been with the circus for decades and has already attacked at least one of Liebel's employees. In 2004, Nosey injured a worker, and after you read the worker's affidavit to the USDA, you can't really blame the elephant for her outrage. In the report, the worker recounts the frequent use of electric shock devices on the elephant and details an incident in which a trainer "used the bullhook handle, turned off the lights in the performance ring and beat the elephant. He at the time directed others to take part in that by using other objects such as [a] sledge hammer and shovel handles. At that time, the elephant was staked down by all four legs …." The employee also states that Nosey's attack "was not the first time the elephant had reached or struck out at people who worked at the circus."
Want to help shut down circuses that abuse and neglect animals? Refuse to go and tell your friends and family members to do the same.
Written by Logan Scherer
After finding out that Renninger's Farmers and Flea Market in Mount Dora, Florida, was offering rides on a female African elephant named Nosey, we immediately contacted the manager and alerted him to the dangers that elephant rides pose to both elephants and the public. After listening to our concerns and hearing from local citizens, Renninger's canceled the rides. Yay!
Most people don't realize that captive elephants are beaten, chained, and denied almost everything that is natural and important to them. This understandably causes aggression and poses a risk to humans—since 1990, rampaging elephants have killed 13 people and injured 120. Just a couple weeks ago, 12 children were injured by an elephant at the Shrine Circus, and in 2004, Nosey herself hit a Liebel Family Circus employee on the back of the head with her trunk, sending him to the hospital. I'm guessing that the parents who let their children take a ride on Nosey had no knowledge of this attack.
To be fair to Nosey—and all captive elephants—it's pretty clear what they're so mad about. After Nosey's outburst in 2004, the injured man described an incident in which a trainer "used the bullhook handle, turned off the lights in the performance ring, and beat the elephant." The trainer also encouraged others to take part in the abuse by striking her with objects such as a sledgehammer and shovel handles. When the USDA investigated the facility, they found that the Liebel Family Circus was not providing the animals in its care with adequate food, shelter, or veterinary care.
Don't you agree that it's time to put a permanent end to the abuse of elephants in circuses?
Written by Liz Graffeo
Blayne Doyle, a retired Florida police officer, had several harrowing experiences during his many years on the force. He was shot and stabbed and was involved in life-threatening automobile, motorcycle, and airplane accidents. But if you were to ask him which event stuck out as the most frightening, he would tell you that it was the day he was forced to shoot and kill an 8,000-pound rampaging elephant named Janet, who was carrying a woman and five children on her back. Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of this tragic event. Sadly, not much has changed in the intervening years. For example, the Liebel Family Circus, which tours throughout Florida, is currently using an elephant named Nosey to give rides.
Blayne has reached out to the governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, asking him to ban elephant rides in Florida. You can read Blayne's moving letter here.
The most shocking part to me is that, in 2004, a circus worker reported that Nosey attacked him during an appearance in Clinton, Iowa. While the worker was tending to the elephant's water dish, Nosey hit him with her tusk, lifted him off his feet, and propelled him down an incline. The worker was rushed to the hospital and received stitches for a head injury. But somehow it's safe to let children ride on Nosey's back? I don't think so.
So, Gov. Crist, won't you please ban elephant rides in Florida? By doing so, not only will you send the powerful message that elephants should not be abused for entertainment, you might also prevent history from repeating itself.
We were blown away when we read that Jess Origliasso, one-half of the gorgeous pop duo The Veronicas, feels the way she does about the nasty fur trade.
Not only is Jess fur-free, but she certainly ain't shy about lettin' the world know it. She told Confidential, "Death for these animals is a horror story—the most common method used for killing foxes is electrocution. I can't speak for Lisa [her twin and bandmate], but I admire the approach to the eye-catching photo shoots PETA [does] to get the important message out there." Wow! Well-worded, and thanks for the shout-out!
She's so bold with her animal rights message that she's even worn a faux fur jacket that reads "F*** Fur." In-your-face sass like this makes her fans set down their soy mochas, snap their necks, and say "Daaaaaang!" at how fly this girl is.
Written by Missy Lane
We approached Spirit Airlines about buying ad space for our G-rated and quite cute "Let Birds Keep Their Wings" ad, which promotes going vegetarian. After Spirit offered us some bogus reasons for rejecting the ad (too small a buy, it only accepts industry ads), we got to the bottom of it. Spirit admitted that it just doesn't want to work with us at all, period. It would rather carry on irritating its flight attendants and captains with ads that have caused a staff uproar for featuring specials for "Double D's," "Red Light Specials," and a "MILF Sale." See our proposed ad below:
We have sent a letter to Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants–Communications Workers of America, asking for support. We figure that most flight attendants would prefer not to have to deal with heart-attacks that may be linked to meat-heavy diets anyway.
Written by Lianne Turner
Going green is on everyone's mind lately—but unfortunately, Indiana is having trouble in that area because of a severe shortage of another type of green …
Basic recycling programs have come under the budget-cutting ax. But don't go grey over it: We've got a suggestion that could save our Hoosier cousins from a real trash flow problem.
We've written to Thomas Easterly, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, offering to pay to put creative advertising all over the state's recycling trucks. Check out our letter to Mr. Easterly here.
PETA's point is that in addition to causing immense suffering to animals, meat production is the leading cause of greenhouse-gas emissions and contributes to other forms of pollution such as depletion of aquifers and pollution of waterways. But a picture is worth a thousand words, so check this out:
Written by Christine Doré
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.