Nosey the Elephant has been abused and neglected by Hugo “Tommy” Liebel, who owns and exhibits her and rents her out to circuses. Readers may be familiar with Nosey’s plight from my previous post about her, “Sick, Abused Elephant Set to Perform in UniverSoul Circus.” Please check out that article for details about poor Nosey’s abuse and neglect.
The Care2 community rallied to Nosey’s defense, with an inspiring 28,500 of you — in less than two days! — signing a petition asking UniverSoul Circus to give Nosey a break and stop doing business with Liebel. Some celebrities joined in with their own letters. But UniverSoul Circus went ahead and used Nosey in their act.
As long as Nosey is with Liebel, he will continue renting her out to traveling circuses. Circus elephants’ lives are generally miserable, even when they aren’t facing extra abuse from their owners:
It’s time to change tack and work to take Nosey away from Liebel forever, and rescue his two monkeys at the same time. So let’s look at the situation from a legal standpoint and see how to use the law to save this suffering 30-something pachyderm.
The Animal Welfare Act
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only federal law that protects animals used for exhibition. Frankly it doesn’t require much, just the basics of humane care for animals. If someone is in violation, something really ugly is going on.
The agency that enforces the AWA is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), specifically its Animals and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Neither the USDA as a whole nor APHIS specifically is known for being a particularly great advocate for animals. In this case, it took them an eternity, but the bureaucratic machinery is slowly turning towards helping Nosey and the monkeys and punishing Liebel.
APHIS Inspections Reveal Liebel’s Scumbagness
As part of its duties under the AWA, APHIS occasionally makes unannounced inspections of animal exhibitors to look for legal violations. APHIS inspected Liebel’s little menagerie 14 times beginning in 2007, and it found willful AWA violations every single time — 33 in total.
What did APHIS do about this consistent and continuing cruelty? It “advised” Liebel of its “concerns.” That doesn’t rise to the level of even a slap on the wrist. It took four years for APHIS to do something that could actually have real consequences.
APHIS’s Formal Complaint to the USDA
At the end of 2011 APHIS filed a formal complaint with the USDA describing Liebel’s many violations of the AWA and they finally asked the USDA to take away his AWA license. Without that license he cannot legally exhibit animals. APHIS also asked the USDA to order Liebel to stop violating the AWA and to pay civil penalties.
That complaint was filed with the USDA on December 7, 2011. The USDA still hasn’t ruled on it. But over a year later, it has gotten around to scheduling a hearing, which is currently set for March 26th in Florida. The lawyer arguing against Liebel is Colleen A. Carroll, an attorney for the federal government.
Let’s give Carroll some encouragement and some ammo. Sign this petition to let her know that we are behind her and to ask her to press for the most severe penalties available to punish Liebel and protect animals from him: the largest fine possible and losing his license to exhibit animals.