Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Victory! Orange County Fair Board ends elephant rides at the fair

Posted: 27 March 2012. Updated: 21 March 2013


Victory! Six votes for ending the Orange County Fair elephant rides; only one opposed after Animal Defenders International (ADI) led a coalition of experts, organizations, and concerned citizens to speak up for Tai, Becky, Rose, Kitty, and Dixie last Thursday at the OC Fair Board Meeting. ADI presented our undercover video to the board that captures elephant purveyor Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT) owners and trainers violently hitting and ‘hooking’ elephants with bullhooks and shocking them with electric devices.

You can view the video here.

ADI is pleased with the Board’s decision and congratulates them for their leadership in showing compassion for animals and concern for public safety.

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Celebrity animal advocate Bob Barker lent his voice to the cause with a power letter to the Board urging them to end the rides. Barker writes, “I hope you are as appalled as I am at what this video depicts: elephants repeatedly shocked with hand-held stun guns, the cries of an elephant being shocked into performing a headstand, and elephants struck on the body and legs with bullhooks. Even the baby elephant does not escape this cruel training. At a time when we are fighting to save highly endangered Asian elephants from extinction, offering them for rides sends the wrong message about how we treat our planet’s rare and vanishing species. We should be ashamed of ourselves as human beings to know that such misery is inflicted on these highly intelligent and self-aware animals for something as frivolous as rides.”


Photo caption: Kari Johnson, co-owner of Have Trunk Will Travel is forced to watch video of herself beating her elephants at the OC Fair Board meeting

Over 100 people made up the standing-room-only crowd spilling into the lobby and an estimated half of them were there to demonstrate that the community ethic of Orange County will not tolerate the abuse of magnificent wild animals. For four hours the Board heard about the brutal training of elephants and tragic consequences that happen when wild animals under duress are put in close proximity to the public. Their decision shows the Board listened and agreed. The OC Fair Board has set a positive example for other county fairs in the area that still offer elephant rides provided by HTWT, such as the Los Angeles and Kern County Fairs, which we hope will soon follow their lead. Since the release of the footage last May, we have been working nonstop to educate stars, studios and elected officials where HTWT has contracts, including the OC Fair Board members.

This decision comes on the heels of the City of Santa Ana ending an over 25-year run of elephant rides at the Santa Ana Zoo after following an investigation into the abuse of elephants at HTWT. Santa Ana officials attributed their decision to a policy change by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), whereby all AZA accredited facilities will manage elephants more humanely and safely by not allowing handlers to share the same space with elephants.

View some of the media coverage here:

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