Circus handler Hugo Liebel who faced charges from USDA for keeping Nosey the elephant chained so tightly that she could not move or lie down, was essentially let off the hook by USDA with a small fine of $7500.Worse, he was allowed to keep Nosey.
Liebel faced 33 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and could have paid a fine as high as $330,000. At the very least, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who is responsible for ensuring that the agency enforce AWA regulations, could have confiscated Nosey and sent her to a sanctuary.
Please sign the petition to urge the USDA's Inspector General Phyllis K. Fong to investigate this settlement.
Dear Ms. Fong,
Last spring your agency allowed a man who faced 33 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and a fine of up to $330,000 to walk away from those charges with virtually no penalty – a meager $7500 fine.
The case centered on a circus elephant named Nosey, who appeared in the HBO documentary An Apology to Elephants. The 33 charges described years of violations and mistreatment of the circus animals, including chaining Nosey so tightly that she could not move or lie down. Liebel even allowed children to take rides on the elephant’s back after she had tested positive for tuberculosis antibodies.
More than 100,000 people signed petitions, wrote letters and made phone calls to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, urging USDA to enforce AWA regulation and protect the public by imposing a meaningful fine on Liebel and confiscating Nosey. Yet Liebel was let off with a fine so small it was easily written off as ‘a cost of doing business’. And not for the first time -- in 2005, Liebel Family Circus settled with USDA, also for multiple violations of AWA. The 2005 was $2885.
What does this say about USDA and its ability to uphold the law and protect the public? The agency’s failure to enforce meaningful penalties sends a clear message that violators may break the law with impunity and without fear of meaningful repercussions. Sadly, this decision also sends a message that it is acceptable to abuse animals and put children at risk.
Please investigate this case. For the animals as well as all the families that bring children to the circus.