December 18th, 2013 by Deborah Robinson
IDA Confirms the USDA Is Investigating Notorious Elephant Abuser
IDA’s efforts, and those of our supporters, on behalf of a long-suffering elephant named Nosey may be paying off! IDA has learned that Hugo Liebel, Nosey’s exhibitor, is again under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for ongoing violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
We were shocked and frustrated this past spring, when the USDA allowed Liebel to settle 33 charges of violating the AWA, agreeing to pay a meager $7,500 fine and to refrain from violating the AWA—a mere slap on the writs when the fines could have topped $300,000 and Liebel’s license could have been terminated or, at the very least, suspended. Liebel continued to drag Nosey around the country and IDA continued to track them to a variety of fairs and festivals throughout the Midwest where Nosey was forced to give rides and sometimes perform.
Thanks to the help of numerous committed advocates who were willing to go to these locations and videotape Nosey, IDA gathered evidence showing that Liebel’s flagrant violations of the law continued at each stop—many of which were the same violations that led to some of the 33 charges. At one location, Liebel used his four-year-old son to load other children onto Nosey’s back. At another, Liebel appeared to be missing altogether, leaving his wife and children in charge of handling Nosey in public. IDA submitted multiple complaints to the USDA documenting these and other violations, many of which created a clear danger to both Nosey and to the public. The USDA’s Investigative and Enforcement Service is now investigating these complaints and, given that these actions put Liebel in violation of the order settling the previous charges, we cautiously hope that meaningful action will finally be taken against this recidivist lawbreaker.
Liebel’s license for exhibiting animals is now up for renewal in January. Since Liebel is either incapable and/or unwilling to comply with AWA regulations, IDA is appealing to the USDA not to renew his license and allow this chronic violator to continue to endanger Nosey’s welfare and put the public at risk. We will keep you updated as we learn more.