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USDA Settles With Circus Handler

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.

79 Responses to “USDA Settles With Circus Handler”

  1. March 26, 2013 at 4:59 pm, k adams said:

    this is unforgivable, I have lost faith in the USDA

    • March 27, 2013 at 2:46 am, Pat Bacon said:

      Whats the matter with the USDA? Why are they not steeping up to protect animals? A bunch of losers and they obviously don’t care about the animals or doing their jobs. They DO care about their big,fat paychecks though that we all supply with our tax dollars. I am sickened.

    • March 27, 2013 at 2:49 am, Pat Bacon said:

      The USDA is getting big,fat paychecks off our tax dollars and they do not do their jobs. I am sickened by this issue. Who will protect these animals? We need to oust the losers down in Washington and put in some REAL people who care about animals and their plights.

  2. March 26, 2013 at 4:59 pm, Officer Clown said:

    Wendy has the best idea.It’s time to stop complaining and take action.I knew about Tomi Liebel back in the 70′s.A fellow clown told me about how he stopped him from locking a dog in a trunk!!! I will send a letter for Nosey right now.Thank you Wendy for getting the info on this!

  3. March 26, 2013 at 6:39 am, Marion Jameson said:

    with this settlement there will be a lot more abuse to animals, this has sent a strong statement to everyone to abuse you animals……and dont worry about it because the USDA will do nothing to stop it….. animals are things…. do what you want with them… treat them with crulety and pain its ok because that is what the USDA is all about, that is what i see.

    • March 28, 2013 at 2:41 am, Pat Bacon said:

      The usda is a horrible excuse for animal protection. I don’t know who is getting their palm greased but somebody is. USDA is in the pockets of all the farmers and other organizations that should be protecting and providing for animals all over the country. They are an abysmal failure.

  4. March 25, 2013 at 9:35 pm, judy thorpe said:

    If the USDA would have slammed the hammer down on Liebel to let him know they are not playing around with animal abusers anymore they would have sent a powerful message to other animal abuse violators that they too will be severely punished.

  5. March 25, 2013 at 9:05 pm, judy thorpe said:

    I wonder how much Hugo Liebel paid the USDA on the side to cut a deal with him to sweep things under the table!? The USDA was an easy touch for Liebel…….he’s laughing all the way back to the circus and poor Nosey gets to keep on suffering.

  6. March 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm, Rob English said:

    What Wendy Michaels said: send polite emails asking for an investigation into docket# 12-0103 settlement to inspector general at

    • March 25, 2013 at 5:35 pm, Marion Jameson said:

      I will do my very best to send a polite letter to phillis as you said… sorry i get very angry when it comes to abuse of animals with a goverment that is not polite.

  7. March 25, 2013 at 4:15 pm, Marion Jameson said:

    SO IT HAS COME TO THIS… BRAINLESS GOVERNMENTS AROUND THE WORLD GIVING A FREE PASS TO ALLOW CRURLTY TORTURE AND PAIN TO ANIMALS, HOW MUCH OF A BACKHANDER DID THEY GET FROM THE CIRCUS TO OVERLOOK THIS… WHAT IS THE USE OF HAVING A USDA WHEN THEY DO NOTHING TO HELP ABUSE ANIMALS ? THIS ONLY SHOWS SICK PEOPLE A FREE PASS TO ABUSE THER ANIMALS…THE DI..HEAD WHO PASSED THIS IN THE USDA I WOULD LIKE HIM TO SUFFER THE SAME WAY THIS POOR ELEPHANT SUFFERS EVERY DAY, WE ALL SHOULD START A PETITION TO GET GUTLESS BRAINLESS DI..LESS PEOPLE OUT OF THE USDA AND BRING IN ONLY PEOPLE WHO HAVE EMPATHY INTELLIGENCE AND HUMANITY… SHAME ON YOU ALL.

  8. March 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm, Save Queenie Save Elephants Page, Facebook said:

    Who ever is in Gillenbrand’s area needs to write her and let her know about the pathetic excuse APHIS is. She heads the Livestock Subcommittee which is suppose to oversee the Animal Welfare Act and this part of the USDA>

  9. March 25, 2013 at 2:53 pm, Pat Bacon said:

    How is this guy getting away with this stuff? I am shocked that this is being allowed.Why doesn’t our government care about the plight of animals?

  10. March 25, 2013 at 2:01 pm, JoelleWalker said:

    And why am I not surprised… The USDA is one more giant, miserable government joke! Poor Nosey, my prayers go out to her.

  11. March 25, 2013 at 11:32 am, Patricia Webster said:

    Disgusting result.

  12. March 25, 2013 at 11:19 am, debra nelligan said:

    this is totally disgusting where is protection for these helpless creatures i want this man fined high and never to be with animals again what is wrong with our justice system

    • March 25, 2013 at 11:21 am, Daniele Halle said:

      Everything, no feelings, if you don’t feel compassion, you are nothing

  13. March 25, 2013 at 10:25 am, Karen Fedorov said:

    I think the USDA needs a COMPLETE OVERHAUL!! Starting at the top and moving down. This is SUCH a travesty! Poor Nosey! Does the USDA represent US? I don’t think so! Outrageous!

  14. March 25, 2013 at 10:07 am, Daniele Halle said:

    This is crock, who the hell is this person an idiot?