March 25th, 2013 by Nicole Meyer
In Defense Of Animals Blasts USDA For Settling With Circus Handler
Washington, D.C. (March 25, 2013) – In Defense of Animals (IDA), an international animal protection organization, today called the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) settlement with a chronic violator of federal animal welfare regulations a “shocking disappointment and a betrayal of public trust.”
Hugo Liebel, based in Davenport, Florida, faced nearly three dozen charges for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The charges included failure to provide veterinary care for the weight loss and chronic skin condition of an elephant named Nosey, chaining her so tightly that she could not move or lie down, and handling her in a way that was dangerous to her and to the public. Yet, instead of revoking Liebel’s license and handing down a maximum penalty of $330,000, the USDA settled before trial with the agreement that Liebel would pay a meager civil penalty of $7,500 and cease and desist from violating the AWA, which IDA says he has blatantly ignored for decades.
IDA has monitored Liebel and his use of animals for years, documenting numerous, flagrant violations of the AWA. IDA submitted multiple complaints with supporting evidence to the USDA, urging the agency to take meaningful action to protect Nosey and the public.
“The USDA squandered a golden opportunity to hold a chronic violator accountable for repeated and willful violations of federal animal welfare standards,” said Nicole Meyer, Director of IDA’s Elephant Protection Campaign. “The USDA not only failed this elephant and other animals Liebel uses, but also betrayed the public’s trust in providing greater protection for vulnerable animals.”
This is not the first time Liebel has been the target of federal law enforcement action. In 2005, the circus handler paid a mere $2,885 to the USDA for similar charges, including failure to safely handle Nosey, resulting in injury to an employee. Liebel also paid a fine in Florida for allowing a monkey to escape and run loose.
“This settlement is a pathetic excuse for government oversight and ignores animal welfare entirely,” said Meyer. “The token penalty represents just two percent of the amount the USDA should have levied against this circus handler and enables Liebel to carry on, business as usual, despite his history of animal abuse and neglect.”
Per previous requests, IDA continues to urge the USDA to confiscate Nosey.